Archive for the ‘2014 Berlinale’ Category

ImageThough the war stories of Afghanistan and Iraq are still being written, the overarching theme is increasingly clear. This generation’s tales will not be of heroism, although that has been on display, or cowardice, although that is inevitable, or of atrocities, triumphs, intrigue, or geopolitical struggle. The ground truth of these conflicts as reflected in the movies already made and those still to be filmed is ambiguity. Setting aside the motivations – real or supposed – for the onset of hostilities, the question of whether the noble commitment of bringing freedom to oppressed people through armed intervention by outsiders is possible or whether the definitions of freedom, oppression and commitment differ so greatly across cultures that the matter can never be resolved will continue to overshadow a more traditional military cinematic narrative.

This maddening, unresolvable ambiguity is at the moral heart of Zwischen Welten (Between Worlds), a simple, powerful tale of one German army unit’s experience in Afghanistan as seen through its squad leader. (more…)

ImageBlack Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo) winning the Golden Bear as Best Film at the 64th Berlinale Festival in February came as no surprise – not because the film merited the honor, but rather because Berlinale juries are notorious for their idiosyncratic and unpopular choices, and the film was not considered a candidate for the top prize leading into the award ceremony. Festival organizers should consider crowdsourcing the selection of the winner of the Competition category. The effectiveness of that approach is on display in the Panorama section of the Berlinale, where audiences picked The Act of Killing and The Broken Circle Breakdown as winners in 2013. Both films went on to earn Academy Award nominations.

It is doubtful that the future holds such promise for Black Coal, Thin Ice though one could argue that there is a crackerjack 90-minute noir locked inside the current 106-minute version.  (more…)

ImageAt the beginning of Kraftidioten, Swedish transplant Nils operates the snow plow that keeps his adopted Norwegian town running through the other worldly winters. For this effort, he is being acknowledged as the Citizen of the Year and, as one of the good townsfolk tells him, a role model for the integration of immigrants in Norway. If and when Kraftidioten is remade as an American movie with Bruce Willis playing the Canadian-born plow driver now operating in upstate Minnesota, you can see that gag working every bit as well. Sly Scandanavian humor is on full display in this subversive and sublime revenge story featuring a stoic Stellan Skarsgård as Nils going full Death Wish on those responsible for the death of his son.


ImageWord of a new French film version of Beauty and the Beast brings with it certain expectations. The timeless story did begin as a French fairy tale, and the 1946 movie directed by Jean Cocteau is considered a milestone in fantasy filmmaking. Would this latest effort wrest back the title of Most Popular from Disney’s animated gem? Would it be a dark rendering, an adult version emphasizing the sensual themes? Or perhaps a more smart ass, satirical take with a sassy 21st century heroine?

The answers arrived with a leaden thud last month at the international premiere of La belle et la bête at the 64th Berlinale Film Festival.