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Berlin Film Festival 68: some consideration

Berlin Film Festival 68: some consideration

Simone Spoladori (February 25, 2018)
Copyright Berlinale 2018
Director Adina Pintillie withthe Golden Bear for "Touch Mee Not"

Sometimes it happens that the best films are not awarded at a festival.
This year a more rare thing happened in Berlin: one of the worst films has been awarded.


It is a fact that the juries of the great international festivals follow unpredictable logic. Sometimes it happens because they do not have a vision of the cinema appropriate to the role, other times even for personal or productive implications with authors and works they are judging: the juries, in short, often end up not to reward the best film.

At the Berlinale often happened to "read" the verdict of a jury with political lenses: rewarding a film, for the jury, often becomes a way to say rightly something urgent or for highlight an important issue. The verdict of this Berlinale 68, signed by the jury presided Tom Twyker (director of "Lola runs" and of the recent acclaimed tv series "Babylon Berlin"), appears totally puzzling: not one, but two awards to one of the more annoying films of the international competition (actually very modest this year), the semi-documentary "Touch Me Not" of the Romanian Adina Pintilie, which - in addition to the Golden Bear - also won the award for the best first feature. It is an experimental film, through which the director tries to tell the essence of intimacy and pleasure, following some characters with an entomological gaze, exploring their taboos, their trauma and their perversions. A film characterized by nudity exhibited without real ability to provoke, an annoying and aestheticising representation of deformity, and a childish and gross psychoanalytic perspective of the trauma itself; besides, the director's narcissistic need to stand in front of the camera for confessions in which we can never glimpse a bit of truth: nothing, in the film by Pintilie, allows us to understand the reasons for such an abundant award.

Unfortunately for the resigning director Dieter Kösslick - under accusation for the lack of valorization of the German movement, he will end his direction of the Berlinale with the 2019 edition - the host country films win nothing, despite having presented in competition four movies, of which at least one ("In der Gängen", by Thomas Stuber, a very inspiring love rising between corridors and forklifts of an hypermarket) deserving to aspire to an important prize. It must be said that the most anticipated of the four, "My Brother's Name Is Robert And He Is An Idiot" by german master Philip Gröning, has been one of the most disappointing and worst works of the entire festival.
Minor prizes have been awarded much more interesting works: the Special prize of the jury went deservedly to "Twarz" by Małgorzata Szumowska, a caustic portrait of Polish society starting from a face transplant to a young metalhead victim of an accident at work; Best Director Prize to Wes Anderson for his "The Isle of Dogs", the opening film of the festival and an effective political metaphor of the first year of Trump administration; double silver bear for the beautiful Paraguayan film "Las Herederas", by the debutant Marcelo Martinessi, the story of an old woman who lived a comfortable life thanks to an inheritance but now is hit by the crisis; when her partner is imprisoned for three months for an unpaid debt, she finds herself making a living as a taxi driver for her rich neighbors, a new life that makes her re-discover her deeper desires. In addition to the best screenplay, the Silver Bear goes to reward the extraordinary protagonist Ana Brun, who, from the stage of the Berlinale Palast, dedicated the award to the women of Paraguay, called "warriors".
No awards for Italy, which presented in competition "Doughter of Mine" - second feature of Laura Bispuri, film that does not fully work and which is a step back compared to the director’s debut of "Sworn Virgin" - and in the Panorama section the first feature of Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo, twins directors, "Boys Cry", a slightly presumptuous work set in the problematic suburbs of Rome, well shot but with a screeenplay that is not always up to scratch.

Beyond the prizes, it is difficult to frame this festival. A mediocre contest, as mentioned, with very few excellences (in addition to "Las Herederas", worthy of mention are only "Dovlatov" by Aleksej German Jr. and the anomalous anti-musical by Lav Diaz "Season of the Devil", beautiful and extremely demanding) and an unusual, for Berlin, difficulty in recognizing a key theme. Of course, it remains a festival that has the merit of always looking with great attention, through the films chosen, to the last of the world, to the migratory flows and to the indigent masses, always choosing a humanistic perspective with which we can only tune. However, the Berlinale, more and better than other festivals, has always shown itself almost like a big text with a homogeneous meaning, of which every single film is a chapter. This year, it is difficult to reconstruct the pieces, among the many themes dealt with, none in a preponderant way, no provocations, no original perspectives. This too, perhaps, is a way of giving a picture of the world in which we live.

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