Monday, February 11, 2013

2013 Berlinale: Days 3-4 Report

Recap of days 3 and 4 of the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), which runs until February 17.

Six competition films were screened over the weekend.

A Long and Happy Life - The fifth feature film from Russian director Boris Khlebnikov, and shot by Pavel Kostomarov who won the cinematography award at Berlin in 2010 for How I Ended This Summer, is an existential drama set in Northern Russia, about a courageous man trying to stand by his convictions amidst a harsh environment.

Gold - The seventh feature film from German-Turkish director Thomas Arslan, and the only German film in the competition programme this year; is a fascinating sounding story set during the late nineteenth century Klondike Gold Rush. It follows a group of seven German immigrants who set off on a 2,500 km journey through the cold and uninviting Canadian wilderness, in the hopes of finding their fortunes. The film stars 2007 Silver Bear winning actress Nina Hoss as a woman determined to do anything to escape her squalid life.

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman - The debut feature film from acclaimed music video and commercial ad director Fredrik Bond, which was critically skewered following its premiere at Sundance last month. It's an action/comedy/romance story set in Romania, and stars Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood.

Gloria - The fourth feature film from Chilean director Sebastián Lelio who makes his first appearance at the Berlinale, is a tragicomedy about a 58 year old divorcée who is determined to defy old age and lonliness and have another go at life.

The Nun - From French director Guillaume Nicloux, is an adaptation of the controversial Denis Diderot novel most famously brought to the screen by Jacques Rivette in 1966. It stars young Belgian actress Pauline Etienne as Suzanne Simonin, a young woman sent to a convent against her will; and perenial festival favorite Isabelle Huppert as her sexually charged mother superior.

Vic+Flo Saw a Bear - The latest from Canadian critic and director Denis Côté, twice awarded for best director at the Locarno International Film Festival. Is a bizarre and unpredictable story of a woman recently released from prison, who moves to a remote house in the woods to try and find some peace and quiet.

  • Day 3 - Saturday, February 9

  • Competition Film
    Долгая счастливая жизнь • Dolgaya schastlivaya zhizn • A Long and Happy Life
    directed by Boris Khlebnikov

    Quotes from the press conference:

    Director Boris Khlebnikov on the origins of the film: "It started out as a little joke when I was watching a classic Western film. I imagined how this would translate into a Russian context and we started researching Russian farmers and their problems."

    Critical response:
    "Although predictable in other respects, Boris Khlebnikov's High Noon-inspired tale of a farmer trying, in doomed fashion, to do the right thing nevertheless reps a solid piece of craftsmanship" - Leslie Felperin - (Variety)

    "Isn’t without subtextual shading, but ultimately its functional, sketchy concision works against it having more than anecdotal power." - Jonathan Romney (Screen Daily)

    "Boasts an agreeably raw lo-fi aesthetic, even if this low-key human tragedy ultimately proves too slight for the volcanic passions it seeks to evoke." - Stephen Dalton (The Hollywood Reporter)

    "Told in an incredibly cold and unhurried fashion, the film's calculated and distinctively Russian approach to existential drama is certainly not for everyone, yet behind this languid tale is a vigorous moral message urging to be heard." - Patrick Gamble (CineVue)

    Alexander Kushaev, Boris Khlebnikov, Anna Kotova, Pavel Kostomarov, Roman Borisevich
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Competition Film
    directed by Thomas Arslan

    Unfortunately the film's star Nina Hoss was ill and could not make it to either the press conference or the red carpet premiere.

    Quotes from the press conference:

    Director Thomas Arslan on the difficulty of shooting in the wilderness: "It certainly was a challenge. It was all unknown terrain. I've never worked with so many animals, or with a historic story before."

    Arslan on the soundtrack: "I decided fairly early on that I wanted the electric guitar sound. Of course there is a similarity to the music by Neil Young in Dead Man, but I think the nuances are different."

    Critical response:
    "The film, accompanied by the ominous long notes of a reflective electric guitar, begins to take on the semblance of an existential journey, vaguely reminiscent of Jarmusch's Dead Man." - Bénédicte Prot (Cineuropa)

    "This involving, naturalistic period piece, full of tension and immediacy, satisfyingly exploits the conventions of the late-era Western as well as its ruggedly majestic landscapes." - Alissa Simon (Variety)

    "A beautifully shot film that makes the most of its widescreen format, Gold provides a fascinating glimpse into a dramatic period." - Mark Adams (Screen Daily)

    "It’s a long and surprisingly uneventful trek for the audience as well as for the band of hopeful gold diggers, who plod sullenly through Arslan’s unimaginative script to the accompaniment of an oft-repeated guitar chord." - Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter)

    "A banal reworking of the western genre, offering the audience little in the way of entertainment or palpable suspense." - Patrick Gamble (CineVue)

    Marko Mandic, Peter Kurth, Lars Rudolph, Rosa Enskat, Wolfgang Packhaeuser, Uwe Bohm
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Competition Film
    The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
    directed by Fredrik Bond

    Critical response:
    "Perhaps the worst film I've seen in a very, very long time." - Chase Whale (Twitch)

    "The man may know how to sell a luxury automobile, but he knows nothing about telling a story or working with actors. His method seems to be, When in doubt, have people run through the street and blast some Sigur Ros or M83" - Jordan Hoffman (

    "The fatal flaw here lies in the implausibility of the central love story. There's little chemistry between the principal actors, and it feels as if the makeup and hair departments have conspired to ensure that neither looks their best." - Sebastian Doggart (Guardian UK)

    "None of it's a good idea, but something about the frantic misguidedness of the project kept tempting me to give in, and LaBeouf, so wary and impressive in Lawless, is getting pretty skilled at flinching from even his least credible scripts. " - Tim Robey (The Telegraph)

    Rupert Grint, Fredrik Bond, Til Schweiger
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

  • Day 4 - Sunday, February 10

    Competition Film
    directed by Sebastián Lelio
    Chile, Spain

    Quotes from the press conference:

    Director Sebastián Lelio on the political relevance of this film: "The strategy of this film was to combine the small individual story that happens in front, against the backdrop that contains the collective demands for change and justice and recognition in Chilean society right now."

    On what inspired him to make this film: "I drew from life, from stories of things that happened to people. It's all based on the city of Santiago. All these stories added up to tell something about us. I use Tom Jobim's Waters of March in one scene, it's a nod and wink to the poetry of everyday life. A balancing act between laughter and tears. A bittersweet and gentle motif. You find that kind of thing in Bossanova, and I hope you find that in my film."

    Critical response:
    "The camera's gaze never leaves our central character's presence, and the film is all the more enjoyable for it. Garcia has created a complex and incredibly affable character that oozes heartfelt emotion" - Patrick Gamble (CineVue)

    "The role of Gloria is a gift for an actress, and Garcia amply rewards the trust in her abilities with a fearless performance; vulnerable and lonely yet undefeated." - Jay Weissberg (Variety)

    "A work of maturity, depth and emotional insight. There’s not a single false note here to push the uplifting empowerment or resilience angles." - David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)

    "It is driven by a quite wonderful performance from Paulina Garcia, who should snag best actress awards at every festival the film plays at." - Mark Adams (Screen Daily)

    Pablo Larrain, Sergio Hendandez, Paulina Garcia, Sebastian Lelio, Juan de Dios Larrain Matte, Gonzalo Maza
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Competition Film
    La Religieuse • The Nun
    directed by Guillaume Nicloux
    France, Germany, Belgium

    Quotes from the press conference:

    Director Guillaume Nicloux on how he came to choose this novel: "I first discovered it in my adolescence, and it's one of those things that left an impression on me. I always thought that if I ever became a filmmaker that I would try and adapt it. I looked for a long time trying to find the right angle."

    Isabelle Huppert on how she prepared for this unique role: "It's the kind of character you have to take out of the caricature and go beyond preconceived images you have of the character. I didn't really ask myself what I should do. It was very easy and natural."

    Critical response:
    "Despite a slightly rapid final part, this new take on Diderot’s novel is a talented illustration of the timelessness of an eminently cinematographic subject: the struggle against injustice." - Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa)

    "Transforms from a reputable religious drama into a farcical pantomime of pathetic sexual advances and cringe-inducing seduction." - Patrick Gamble (CineVue)

    "If it weren't for the luminous face of Belgian actress Pauline Etienne, the pic would be a snoozefest of epic proportions." - Boyd Van Hoeij (Variety)

    "While nothing in The Nun feels inspiring or truly groundbreaking, it’s certainly a well-handled package, and the strong performances are abetted by superb technical contributions." - Jordan Mintzer (The Hollywood Reporter)

    Martina Gedeck, Francoise Lebrun, Guillaume Nicloux, Isabelle Huppert, Pauline Etienne, Louise Bourgoin
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Competition Film
    Vic+Flo ont vu un ours • Vic+Flo Saw a Bear
    directed by Denis Côté

    Quotes from the press conference:

    Director Denis Côté on directing a film about women: "I think there are lots of films about men, I've made lots of films about men, so I thought I should make a film about women. I thought it would be a brave thing to try."

    On having another film in competition at a festival: "I'm known as the festival guy. Hopefully with this film, I can find a new audience. Maybe its a bit more warm than what I usually do, maybe it can find a bigger audience, I don't know."

    Critical response:
    "It’s an ability to create tension out of seemingly banal and innocuous events, and to undermine the breezy deadpan comedy with darker notes, that holds our interest in this laconically-paced film." - Lee Marshall (Screen Daily)

    "Comes on strong with sharp visuals and eccentric humor. But its mannerisms become too studied and its pace stultifying." - David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)

    "Côté smuggles flashes of absurdist humor into the dialogue and eventually the narrative itself, the actors play it straight, lending an emotional authenticity to the proceedings that pays off in the climax." - Eric Kohn (Indiewire)
    Marc-Andre Grondin, Pierrette Robitaille, Denis Cote, Romane Bohringer
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)
Our other coverage of the 63rd Berlinale:


Lisa Thatcher said...

What a shame The Nun appears to be a bit of a clunk fest, but the challenge to make one of those films in this day and age must be huge when you consider what you're fighting against. It still looks unmissable to me (but then I have a "nun" thing and an "Isabelle Huppert" thing so it was made for me). So many of the other films look so wonderful.

I did have a gigle at the poor reviews of "The Necessary death of Charlie Countryman".... there is stiff competition at the moment for the illustrius award of worst film I have seen in years - it must be pretty bad then!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

The Nun looks unmissable to me as well. It's a story I think is just as relevant today as when it was written, and Pauline Etienne has a wonderful classical look to her.

And those reviews are hilarious. Competition films don't often get such one sided hate.

d_4 said...

I was a little sad for a second when I saw the video put up for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman and thought it seemed so beautiful.. only to have it washed down by the critics. Then I noticed it was actually for Gloria, and I don't feel so bad for wanting to see it anymore.

You should update that little section, you know, change the video.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Fixed, thanks for catching that.

Gloria does look beautiful. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets some awards come Saturday.

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