There was an electricity in the room as we awaited the beginning of the very first press conference of the Berlinale 2015. A soft rumbling of friends re-united and an anticipatory audience. Though we weren’t entirely sure when they’d appear — as the set time of 10:40 had now been breached — we could see on a small television in the corner that their delay was brought on by a storm of photographic flashes, a mere two or three rooms away. Cameras rose and pointed toward the door I just happened to sit right in front of thinking it would make for a quick exit later. As the members of the jury entered, there was modest applause and the lady tweeting in Spanish right next to me hardly looked up. The cameras were asked to take their seats twice. Larger applause erupted as each individual member of the jury was introduced – Daniel Brühl, Bong Joon-ho, Martha De Laurentiis, Claudia Llosa, Audrey Tautou, and Matthew Weiner.
The first question asked was in German and directed at Daniel Brühl – something vague about how it feels to be a member of the jury. He replied that usually when he attends the Berlinale, he only sees the film he is in and a couple of others, and that this year it will be nice to see all of the films in competition and discuss them with his fellow jurors. When asked how they view the films, Jury President Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) remarks that they see them “beautifully projected” in the cinema, and that they would in fact be watching some of them with members of the press for the first time.
As they continued to answer the questions asked of them, the photographers with their telescope-sized lenses continued to unleash torrents of sounds as they snapped away at what seemed to be uzi-speed, actually making it difficult to hear. With each subsequent question, Audrey Tautou stared into the distance, contemplating the translations of all the going-ons emanating from her earpiece. Aronofsky commented on the strange nature of film festival competitions, saying that comparing films really is like the cliche of comparing apples and oranges — that in the end their choices for the top films will say as much about the jury as they will about the films themselves. Finally, Tautou was given the opportunity to speak up on this same topic and said she hasn’t stopped smoking, but she has stopped reading critics, so she doesn’t know how it feels to be poorly reviewed. In this same vein, she commented that when you vote on the films, you aren’t ever voting against films, only for them.
Matt Weiner, creator of Mad Men, commented that when he received the call to be asked to join the jury, he was “excited and surprised,” as he had never been to Berlin. He got a good laugh out of the crowd when he mentioned that ‘jury’ sounded more like they would be judging criminals rather than other artists, and observed that there is “so much tenacity required to become a film artist of any kind.”
A lengthy question was posed in Spanish, only to find out there was no Spanish translator on-hand. Luckily, the question was then repeated by the same individual in German. Twenty minutes into the conference, the tweeting lady seated next to me packs up and leaves, complete with the Windows ‘shut down’ chime. An exasperated videographer gets told to leave the area he’s stepped into. The press don’t seem to be the most attentive audience. Bong Joon-Ho mentions that “politicians don’t understand the history of film” and that it will be much easier to watch the 19 films in competition in Berlin than the usual 28 at Cannes.
When asked if any films stood out, Aronofsky answered that “each day is Christmas,” as he doesn’t know what’s in competition apart from Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, and that as a jury they will try their best to be “objective within our subjective reality,” and that “a good movie is all I’m looking for.” Asked about the move by some filmmakers and audience members to television as a means of cinematic storytelling, Weiner said that the “commercial reality” of Hollywood prohibits adult drama and adult comedy and that “television has been more economically inviting to artists.”
More and more writers got up to leave before the conference had ended. I would soon find out they were leaving early so as to beat me to the first press screening of Nobody Wants the Night. When I arrived, the designated auditorium was full, so I followed the crowd as we ran to the basement, packed into the waiting area for a simultaneous screening. Everyone pushed to get in first, which turned out to be all for nought: the theater proved spacious and beautiful, the side walls lit by red strips of light, a large white light right on the curtain covering the screen. It was difficult to tell if everyone was so excited about the film we were about to see or the perceived sense of self-importance that has been bestowed upon them by their little red passes. Two french members of the press seated behind me noted aloud that Audrey “didn’t say anything” today.
After the screening I walked back into daylight and started to think about what I’d just seen. I picked up a free copy of a Hungarian Film Magazine and walked to the lobby, where I stood in thought for a moment. A man approached me out of the blue and asked what I’d thought of the film. Thinking he was a critic trying to gauge his reaction against someone else’s I said I’d liked it: that I didn’t love it, but I liked it. This man turned out to be cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu. I quickly bumbled and felt stupid for adding that I didn’t love the film, now adding that I had really liked the lighting in certain scenes and quite loved a particular landscape shot which the characters walk through. He smiled, and we spoke briefly in French. I asked if he had time for an interview. He didn’t, but gave me his signature and e-mail on one of the back pages of the Hungarian Film Magazine I’d just picked up.Return to Our Berlinale 2015 Daily Coverage