Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 Berlin International Film Festival: Days 3-4

Recap of days 3 and 4 of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), which runs until February 16.

Five films from the Competition programme were screened over the weekend (3 competing and 2 out of competition):

  • Beloved Sisters (Die geliebten Schwestern) by Dominik Graf.

    German writer director Dominik Graf enters the Berlinale competition for the second time with a historical period piece set in 1788 about two sisters (Charlotte and Caroline Lengefeld) who fall in love with the same man, writer and philosopher Friedrich Schiller.

    Official Synopsis:
    The aristocratic sisters Charlotte and Caroline both fall in love with the controversial young writer and hothead Friedrich Schiller. Defying the conventions of their time, the sisters decide to share their love with Schiller. What begins playfully, almost as a game among the three of them, soon turns serious as it leads to the end of a pact...
  • The Monuments Men by George Clooney (Out of Competition).

    Star actor director George Clooney's latest. The story of an Allied platoon tasked with preventing precious works of art from being destroyed by the Nazis.

    Official Synopsis:
    an action drama focusing on seven over-the-hill, out-of-shape museum directors, artists, architects, curators, and art historians who went to the front lines of WWII to rescue the world’s artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners. With the art hidden behind enemy lines, how could these guys hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.
  • History of Fear (Historia del miedo) by Benjamin Naishtat.

    A rare first feature in the main competition. From promising Argentinian director Benjamín Naishtat, whose shorts have previously been presented at Cannes and Rotterdam.

    Official Synopsis:
    When a heat wave grips the suburbs, black-outs and waves of pollution push the social order to the brink of collapse, forcing each inhabitant to confront his own motives, instincts and fears
  • Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg) by Dietrich Brüggemann.

    The third feature from German brother and sister directing writing duo Dietrich and Anna Brüggemann.

    Official Synopsis:
    Maria is 14 years old. Her family is part of a fundamentalist Catholic community. Maria lives her everyday life in the modern world, yet her heart belongs to Jesus. She wants to follow him, to become a saint and go to heaven–just like all those holy children she’s always been told about. So Maria goes through 14 stations, just like Jesus did on his path to Golgatha, and reaches her goal in the end. Not even Christian, a boy she meets at school, can stop her, even if in another world, they might have become friends, or even lovers. Left behind is a broken family that finds comfort in faith, and the question if all these events were really so inevitable
  • Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version) by Lars von Trier. (Out of competition)

    The world premiere of the 145-minute-long director's cut of the first half of Nymphomaniac.

    Official Synopsis:
    In the alley in front of his tenement building, aging bachelor Seligman finds a young woman covered in blood. He takes her to his apartment where Joe tells him about her life, her experiences with men and her insatiable appetite for sex.

  • Day 3 - Saturday, February 8
Competition Film
Beloved Sisters (Die geliebten Schwestern)
directed by Dominik Graf

Critical response:
"Graf has created an unusually intelligent costume drama of bold personalities torn between the stirrings of the heart and the logic of the mind."Scott Foundas (Variety)
"Handsomely produced if occasionally rather old-fashioned feeling period drama, which plays like a soap opera in which the characters just happen to have better manners and finery."Boyd van Hoeij (The Hollywood Reporter)
"It’s a challenging prospect at almost three hours duration, but Beloved Sisters can occasionally thrill with its confident mise-en-scene, splendid craft credits, and solid characterisation, particularly from the sisters."Fionnuala Halligan (Screen Daily)
"Over its run time of three hours Beloved Sisters does not do anything in particular to reinvent the period fictional biography genre."Bénédicte Prot (Cineuropa)

Out of Competition
Monuments Men
directed by George Clooney
USA, UK, Germany

Critical response:
"The problem isn't a lack of weight, but of lightness. It's stuck with lead feet for a historical caper and serves no other worthwhile purpose."Tim Robey (The Telegraph)
"For all its quality pedigree and good intentions, the result is a frustratingly flat film that drifts from moment to moment with a curious lack of urgency and an overbearing sense of self-importance"William Goss (
"It's a big old creaky airplane that never achieves liftoff."Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood)

  • Day 4 - Sunday, February 9
Competition Film
History of Fear (Historia del Miedo)
directed by Benjamin Naishtat
Argentina, Uruguay, France, Germany

Critical response:
"As the latest neophyte auteur to kneel at the altar of Michael Haneke, Naishtat doesn’t seem confined to homage, but instead has fresh, regionally relevant observations to make."Peter Debruge (Variety)
"There are few reactions as unconscious and direct as the ones generated by fear and the closely associated idea of self-preservation, and the director turns his debut into a feature-length exploration of how terror of the unknown can become a destructive force."Boyd van Hoeij (The Hollywood Reporter)
"The film’s structure is so freeform that one can’t say that it lacks a third act, per se; but at 80 minutes and with everything moving along with such wit, strangeness and menace, one can’t help wanting more."Demetrios Matheou (Screen Daily)

Competition Film
Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg)
directed by Dietrich Brüggemann

Critical response:
"Shades of Michael Haneke and references to classic religious paintings will certainly not go unnoticed, though rest assured the Catholic Church is not about to integrate this new version of the Holy Passion of Christ into its catechism."Dan Fainaru (Screen Daily)
"Though leavened with occasional moments of acerbic humor, this Berlinale competition title is an impressive but also rather grim cinematic experience."Boyd van Hoeij (The Hollywood Reporter)
"Divided into the 14 Stations of the Cross, all but three consisting of a single fixed shot, the film plays into the expectations of religiophobes who will praise its stiffness while ignoring its obviousness."Jay Weissberg (Variety)
"Whilst it's not exactly difficult to chart Stations of the Cross' trajectory after the first few expositionary chapters, a fitting finale highlights just how fine a balancing act between the ludicrous and the laconic Brüggemann has achieved."Daniel Green (CineVue)

Out of Competition
Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version)
directed by Lars von Trier

Critical response:
"It’s sardonic and detached, which has the unfortunate effect of keeping Joe at arm’s length. She feels less like a real character than a symbol."Beth Hanna (Thompson on Hollywood)
"It is a symphony, or perhaps a thrusting, punk-inflected heavy metal power grind of rude, funny, sexy, sad, gross, pretentious, meta and brilliant, and sometimes all of these things at the same time."Jessica Kiang (The Playlist)
"In either edit, the movie remains a ferociously entertaining experience in which one finds von Trier at the peak of his craft, linking together ideas about female sexuality, fly-fishing and artistic creation with equal amounts of playfulness and intellectual rigor. "Scott Foundas (Variety)

Screening tomorrow at the Berlinale (Monday, February 10):
  • Life of Riley by Alain Resnais (In Competition)
  • In Order of Disappearance by Hans Petter Moland (In Competition)
  • Blind Massage by Lou Ye (In Competition)

See our other coverage of the 64th Berlinale:


Unknown said...

I think I'm looking forward to '71, I like what's said and the clip had me in suspense with little context as to what was going on. I like that. Two Men in Town doesn't sound amazing for me, but that clip was strong. Then again, it might just be Forest bias.

Unknown said...

I like how the general thoughts on Monuments Men were similar to mine when I saw the trailer. History of Fear sounds like something I'd enjoy, partially because of response and partially because I particularly enjoy Argentine cinema.

Unknown said...

I just saw "The Monuments Men" today w/ "Labor Day" as it's an alright film as I'll post my review tomorrow. I'm eager to see "Nymphomaniac" though I have no interest in whatever bullshit stunt Shia LaBeouf tries to pull off as he's just a whore for attention. If he comes across my path and tries to antagonize him. It'll be the worst fucking day of his pathetic life.

Unknown said...

History of Fear does look very interesting. Reminds me somewhat of a Brazilian film from last year called Neighboring Sounds.

Unknown said...

Can't wait. The first half is supposed to get a limited release here next month.

Unknown said...

Haha, I'm not quite sure what to think about his public antics. If it's a genuine breakdown I can understand, because I'd probably be even worse if the spotlight was on me my entire life. On the other hand, if it's all a ruse, then it's all been done before, and better.

Unknown said...

I agree '71 looks genuinely exciting.

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