Berlinale 2015 had an incredible amount of screenings to offer. As such, I wasn’t able to begin to see everything, or even everything I’d hoped to see, but I was very lucky to get to see as much as I did.
Three of the big winning films were ones I didn’t manage to see (45 Years, The Pearl Button, and El Club), but I was more than excited to see Taxi awarded the Golden Bear, as a political and artistic statement. I was also very happy to see Under Electric Clouds deservedly earn a Silver Bear for its camerawork. Meanwhile, my two personal favorites from the festival received no love (Knight of Cups, Eisenstein in Guanajuato).
My highly subjective personal picks for the BEST OF THE FEST:
Knight of Cups
A pleasant surprise after the disappointment that was To the Wonder, Terrence Malick’s new film is as long and quiet as anything else in his oeuvre, but its frequently stunning and thematic cohesion put it among his absolute best.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
A triumphant return from the annals of obscure near-incomprehensibility for director Peter Greenaway, but still rife with his trademark challenges like nudity, philosophical conversations, and vomit, Eisenstein in Guanajuato is an intellectual treat if you can handle the meat.
Under Electric Clouds
Truly a new masterpiece of Russian cinema, this quiet and deeply poetic work likely has a long future of admiration by a certain circle of cinephiles ahead of it.
A remarkable new piece from the unstoppable Jafar Panahi, and the winner of this year’s Golden Bear, Taxi makes so much out of so little and offers plenty of comedy alongside clearly-expressed yet profound questions about humanity.
My only top pick that did not screen in competition, Blue Blood was touching, inventive and refreshing. Many films attempt to evoke feelings in a similar to those in Blue Blood, but rarely do they succeed this well.
By the trivial numbers (that are admittedly mostly estimates, but I doubt anyone will double check my math here [and naturally this list only includes only films I actually saw]):
-26: number of films I saw in all
-6: number of films I saw that ended up winning awards
-4: number of films depicting bloody noses
-4: number of films featuring male nudity
-6: number of films by female directors
-3: number of films with translated subtitle typos
-a fair few: number of films in which alcohol played a significant role
-1: number of films in which goat’s milk played a significant role
-6: number of days in which coffee played a significant role in my day
-3: number of films that almost put me to sleep
-7: number of official sponsors important (read: rich) enough to have their logo in the promo that played before every single screening
-11: number of festival screening days
-too many: number of reviews I need to catch up on now that the festival is over
-absolutely unquantifiable: the number of people I saw get up and walk out of screenings
-0: number of films that filled me with an unstoppable urge to get up and walk out
-I purposefully avoided: Elser: 13 Minutes, Mr. Holmes, Cinderella
-I wish I’d seen: Androids Dream, H., 45 Years, El Club, every film that played as a part of the Wim Wenders retrospective other than Pina (that one I managed to see).
-I was kind of disappointed by: Queen of the Desert, Every Thing Will Be Fine, This Gigantic Furrowing of the Ground, and Aferim!
I had a fairly loose festival experience, only watching films during the day all at once rather than spread out into the night (with the exception of my extra night trip to see La Maldad, because I wasn’t going to let something with that title pass me by). What did pass me by daily were the million other viewers with their tightly-packed daily schedules of exactly every movie they were going to see, absolutely going to every in-competition screening, carefully marking their elaborate times tables and getting in line day after day to procure new tickets (still free for press people) for the next two days’ non-press screenings. Having never before had the opportunity to attend a film festival of any kind, I came to the Berlinale relatively unprepared for what awaited me, my schedule and the films I saw ended up changing often. It was relatively easy to figure out how things work here, but at the same time almost impossible to get a full grasp on everything that was going on and how to get involved.
After ten days, I was still discovering new secrets. One example of just a really basic “secret:” on the first day, I picked up my press pass, then got in line to collect tickets for the films I wanted to see. However, I didn’t see some of my selected screenings on the paper they’d offered up that supposedly had all of the next two days’ movies to choose from. When I got to the press ticket counter, I asked about these. I was informed that the press screenings weren’t on those papers because you didn’t need tickets, you just had to show your badge. Clear enough. He went on to tell me I couldn’t procure tickets for these other films because I had a press pass instead of a “daily” press pass. Okay. So I resigned to going to tons of press screenings and completely re-worked my schedule from scratch. On the third from last day, I felt so strongly about not seeing Cinderella that I decided to just try and get tickets to alternate screenings anyway. And just like that, it worked. And with the very same guy who had told me I needed a different kind of pass, no less. I was baffled and wished I had tried sooner, but that’s the way these things go. Needless to say, I look forward to next time and will come far more prepared and organized.Return to Our Berlinale 2015 Daily Coverage