Berlin Film Festival 2022 roundup – seriousness, joy and best film won | Berlin Film Festival
The Berlin Film Festival was a strangely adversarial affair. He was known for his elaborately kitsch opening and closing ceremonies and socially conscious competition films: champagne on the red carpet, kale juice on the screen.
This year’s Berlin was differently weird. The February 2021 festival was online only, but offered the best crop of titles in recent memory. This year, a slightly shorter festival has resumed – and if only its selections had been in the same league, that might have made up for the event’s oddly desolate feel. The festival’s distribution market had moved online, which meant fewer delegates, in part because of Germany’s still-tight restrictions, which insisted on daily testing as a condition of access to press screenings. All of this made the unusually quiet Palast area feel like an art installation in homage to Checkpoint Charlie’s bygone days.
As for the films, much of the competing line-up had the brooding earnestness of the old Berlinale, with little sense of fearless formal experimentation. But there was joy to be had. You might have expected a jury chaired by M Night Shyamalan to come up with a last-minute shock twist. The problem is that they did not: they awarded the Golden Bear for best film to the title that deserved it, that of Carla Simón Alcarrlike. A realistic drama about a Catalan family facing eviction from the land where they grow peaches, it’s very political and extremely exuberant. Rich in immersive detail, the film is superbly cast with a bountiful ensemble, including three children whom Simón seems to have left to their own devices, to irresistibly anarchic effect. It is also a historic victory: the third Grand Prix in one year for women directors at European festivals, after Julia Ducournau with Titanium in Cannes and at Audrey Diwan Event to Venise.
It was a good year for France. Opening film by François Ozon, Kant’s stoneis a sly tribute to German maestro Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a reverse reimagining of RWF’s 1972 classic The bitter tears of Petra von Kant, starring the towering Denis Ménochet as a lovesick gay author who looks a lot like Fassbinder himself. Also featuring original Fassbinder star Hanna Schygulla and fellow 70s legend Isabelle Adjani, Kant’s stone is a sly and polished confection of mischievous, melancholic and heady melodrama.
Another French star author, Claire Denis, was here with Both sides of the blade, starring Juliette Binoche as a woman caught between her partner (Vincent Lindon) and her ex-smoothie. It’s odd to see a radical like Denis working within the traditional parameters of bourgeois marital drama, but she does so with a typically unsettling idiosyncrasy. On the other hand, that of Mikhaël Hers passengers of the night was a sweet, alt-feelgood drama. Set in 1980s Paris, it features Charlotte Gainsbourg on the affective form of a newly divorced woman who gets a job on a late-night radio show. Perhaps too zen to look deep into the darker areas of history, it is nonetheless an immensely tender atmospheric piece – a nostalgic journey with heart and subtlety.
The boldest entry in the contest was Dress of Gems, a disturbing, sometimes mystifying Mexican film about a wealthy family who move to a rural villa, with brutal results. Its themes are familiar in Mexican drama — violence, corruption, the divide between rich and poor — but first-time director Natalia López Gallardo gives it a genuinely unsettling thrill. Previously known as Carlos Reygadas’ editor-in-chief, she has developed her own nightmarish style.
Outside of the competition, fringe attractions included Andrew Dominik’s music documentary what i know to be true, which intersects sparse performances by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis with interludes in which they discuss their working methods, and an intro in which Cave unveils his utterly bizarre set of ceramics depicting the devil’s biography. Then there was Gourmet Feed, by British arch-conceptualist Peter Strickland. It takes place in an institute where “culinary collectives” literally concoct experimental sound performances. Starring Asa Butterfield and Gwendoline Christie, it’s a little pedantic in its humour, more than a little reminiscent of Peter Greenaway, but visually arresting, and it’s good to see Strickland still flying its bizarre flag on the conformist terrain of British cinema.
More quietly outraged, and the best fun here was Incredible but trueby Quentin Dupieux, the japiste behind deer skin and mandibles. His latest shaggy dog story is about a couple who discover something weird in the basement of their new home. not so much a thing, more a philosophical conceit that the film explores with irresistibly deadpan comic logic.
As for the most poignant film of the festival, it had to be an Italian competition entry Leonora Addio. For decades, Paolo Taviani worked with his brother Vittorio as one of cinema’s great sibling duos. Directing solo after Vittorio’s death, he pays homage to him and to the great Italian writer Luigi Pirandello. Largely comprising a beautifully shot black-and-white narrative about the return of Pirandello’s ashes to his native Sicily, it’s a joyful and sad contemplation of art, history and mortality.
As a daydream about old age, it was a good match for Mitra Farahani’s eccentric doc See you Friday, Robinson, in which Jean-Luc Godard (91) exchanges e-mails with veteran Iranian director and author Ebrahim Golestan (99). Godard sends cryptic quotes from Dashiell Hammett. Golestan, filmed in his vast Xanadu-like English house, ironically thinks that Godard could piss on it. We also see Godard ironing his shirts – one of those cinematic firsts you’re really glad you witnessed.
The best of Berlin
Best Picture Golden Bear Alcarras by Carla Simon
Silver Bear Grand Jury price The novelist’s film, the 27th feature film by Korean Hong Sang-soo, strangely coherent. As always, a finely tuned comedy of morals and incomprehension.
Silver Bear Jury Prize Dress of Gems by Natalia Lopez Gallardo.
Silver Bear for Best Director Claire Dennis, Both sides of the blade (a.k.a Fire).
Special mention The Swiss Michael Koch for his imposing alpine drama A piece of sky.
Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance Meltem Kaptan in Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush. A regular on German-Turkish television, Kaptan displayed a boisterous character in this comically tinged story of a woman fighting to free her son from Guantánamo. But his victory, which pleases the public, should not overshadow other exceptional performances: for example Noémie Merlant and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart in One year, one night, on the Bataclan attack; and especially Michael Thomas larger than life at Ulrich Seidl Riminias an exhausted cabaret singer turned part-time gigolo.