Berlinale 2019 #1: Our first picks of this year’s Berlin Film Festival

11th February 2019

You will find us in Berlin this week for the annual Berlin Film Festival, Berlinale. Now its 69th year, the festival features an array of local and international films. We will be updating you throughout the week with commentary on films we've managed to see. From Juliette Binoche's catfishing to Casey Affleck post-apocalyptic drama, below is our first picks and thoughts on films we've seen so far.

The Kindness of Strangers

Our first viewing at the Berlinale begins with the rather fluffy affair, The Kindness of Strangers. Various unrelated story strands that eventually come together, all centred around a down and out bunch of folks who are eventually…. you guessed it… saved by the incredible kindness of others more fortunate than them. Consisting of an assemblage of well-known actors who do their best to salvage what is possible from the schmaltziest of scripts; the chameleon-like Andrea Risborough unrecognisable in her nurse get-up, Zoe Kazan expectedly delivers as a beaten-up homeless mother, although her love interest Tahar Rahim is completely incoherent and Bill Nighy’s pseudo-Russian restaurant owner is amusing if completely redundant. It’s almost troubling the way the film glorifies homelessness, as if we live in a world where a homeless person can sashay into private party, grab themselves a glass of champagne, mingle with the guests, whilst scooping all thehors d'oeuvres in their handbags to feed their kids later.


Light of My Life

Written and directed by Casey Affleck who also stars as an over-protective father of young daughter Rag, played by the jaw-droppingly good early teenager Anna Pniowsky. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where an unspecified virus has killed all women; very little detail is given, so we deduce what happened from intimate flashbacks between Affleck’s dad and Elizabeth Moss’s mum. Dad does his best to keep people at bay, who unexplainably are hunting them down, wanting to kill Rag. Set in the snowy forest wilderness with no indication thats its of another time, there is a pro-feminist undercurrent to the film. Affleck doesnt shy away from extending scenes to the max, the beginning scene must be at least over 10-15 minutes long, causing some impatient walk outs. It does drag on a bit, its not to the complete detriment of the film, as it still remains a beautifully expansive, well executed offering. One could assume that this could be some sort of personal declaration or explanation for Affleck, an answer post his whole sexual harassment allegations. 

Casey Affleck and Anna Piniowsky in Light of My Life.

Celle Que Vous Croyez / Who You Think I Am

This Juliette Binoche starring vehicle is surprisingly good. Its more narrative based compared to the over-indulgent cerebral contemplations, Binoche’s roles have been of late. Director Saffy Nebbou masters the art of subtle suspense infused with intelligent comedic moments. Centred exclusively from Binoche’s character Claire, a 50-year-old divorcee with two sons, who becomes embroiled in a catfishing expedition of a much younger man Alex (Francois Civil), luring him in by using her nieces’ pictures as the decoy. Claire carries on the affair lapping up Alex’s undivided attention but pulling back each time he insists on meeting. Events are told through Claire's weekly theary session, slowly divulges all the goings on, with one intimate revelation uncovering the next another the finally reach a troubling truth. As a viewer, the film continually has the rug pulled from under you, I could not see any of the twists or turns coming. Binoche is devilishly beautiful, as she always is, she could be sitting in empty room reading out a dictionary and it would still make for a great watch. Aesthetically dark, stylish, sharp, dark and edited to perfection.

Der Goldene Handschuh / The Golden Glove

I was hearing talk of this film from the moment I arrived in Berlin and understandably so, as this film is as ugly and as gruesome as it gets. If you thought Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built was extreme Fatih Akin’s movie is beyond that, a new addition the list of 50 most disturbing films, up there with films like Hannibal HolocaustA Serbian Film or even the Human Centipede. The grotesque misogynistic beatings, killings and severed bodies by Hamburg's local psychopath Frantz Honka (Jonas Dassler) throughout the 70s almost becomes a parody. Based on true life events, Honka beats and kills woman after woman who he usually meets at The Golden Glove bar, bringing them back to his and proceeds to attack and kill by any means possible and stores their bodies, to the annoyance of his Greek neighbours who are having to live with the stench of decomposing corpses. Akin is keen to provide an explicit depiction, ramping the repugnance to stratospheric heights. There is no method to Honka’s killings, its just alcohol fuelled brutality, keeping you in a state of permanent shock and disgust. which after a while, starts to feel rather aimless and pointlessly gratuitous.


The 69th edition of the Berlinale runs from the 7th till 17th of February, 2019.

Words By Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.

Read more film & entertainment features here.


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