Because I got off to a slightly late start this morning, I had to start running by the time I had hit Potsdamer Platz in order to make it to the Palast 9 o’clock screening of Russian director (as if you couldn’t guess from his name) Alexej German, Jr.’s Under Electric Clouds. What a trip. An absolute cinematic tome, its main subject seems to be the idea of Russia itself.
Told in seven chapters and exploring different moments in time (including a look into the future set in 2017), there is a circular structure to it involving a set of characters always looking to the past and future simultaneously as they examine and discuss decay, art, memory, and politics. While it is unquestionably languid in its dead-serious musings, there are touches of unexpected humor to the whole affair which would not be too out of place in a contemporary Jean-Luc Godard film. While far more accessible than, say, the final film directed by his father, Hard to Be a God (which German Jr. helped assemble the final cut for after his father’s passing), it is clear he learned a great deal from his father about blocking, camera movement, and visual poetics. It is also difficult to avoid making comparisons to the work of the great Andrei Tarkovsky, but to only compare Under Electric Clouds to existing works (and only cinematographical ones at that) would be a great disservice to this brilliantly realized anthology of a film.
I ran to the press conference after the film had finished, only to wait for a late beginning in a half-empty room. It seemed I hadn’t been the only one behind schedule this morning. German proved just as lyrical and long-winded as his film. The question asked how he’d decided to choose a science-fiction setting for the film. He said that it was “very important to portray time,” as “Russia is not very optimistic as far as time goes.” He went on to explain that in Russia, time goes from point B to point A instead of A to B, that it is a country which is very confused in terms of time and memory, and that they wanted to visualize time as a series of circles, like ripples in the water. He offered that by using a series of chapters, they wanted to “shed light on different perspectives,” that the film is a “poetic one,” and that making the film was a journey “not to explain, but to go into the essence of where the country is going,” because “it’s important to try and examine the world.” German also said “Russia is covered by this darkness by not being able to understand itself, and it believes it is not understood by the outside world […] Our film is an attempt to shed light on this situation.” The cast and crew spent five years shooting, with an extra year of preparation in pre-production for the script. Finally, people began to ask questions to the other nine individuals representing the film, and I was very interested in hearing from the actors, but upon checking the time sadly realized I had to decide between staying to hear from the actors and seeing the next film on my schedule.
I bolted to CinemaxX (that’s right, the second ‘X’ is capitalized), and got into Every Thing Will Be Fine (in 3D) just in time. My, what a strange film. The latest from New German Cinema director (and now frequent documentarian) Wim Wenders, it is a film which walks an unbelievably dangerous line between ‘outright bad’ and ‘self-consciously analytical.’ The use of 3D is strange and subdued, but occasionally really lends the perfect pop to cinematographer Benoît Debie’s (Spring Breakers, Enter the Void) already stellar compositions. James Franco turns in yet another Franco performance, Charlotte Gainsbourgh looks like she’s stumbled out of a Lars von Trier film, and Rachel McAdams speaks with the worst fake French-Canadian accent you’ve never heard. Apart from an interesting new theme from composer Alexandre Desplat (alongside its less-interesting counterpart) and a surprise cameo by singer-songwriter Patrick Watson, the whole film is a great big boring mess which holds back until the end to half-reveal it just might’ve been stagey, contrived, and poorly-acted on purpose as a means of self-examination of narrative drama through the relationship between an author and his or her audience, and expectations. A dangerous line which Every Thing Will Be Fine walks on a tightrope, a hundred feet in the air, and in 3D, no less.
Something I’ve now seen in at least three films here: nosebleeds.Return to Our Berlinale 2015 Daily Coverage