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Berlinale 2018 #2: Highights include the exceptional Italian drama Figlia Mia and harrowing Norwegian real-life terrorist attack drama Utopia

February 24, 2018

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Candid Magazine

As mentioned in our first Berlinale update, films with strong sense of social commentary seems to be the overarching theme, but over the course of the week, we’ve gradually also seen an emergence of offerings focused on more personal motifs: such as the exploration of self and relationships with others. Below is a mixture of films, of which some are in competition and some are outside of competition, in more curated sections titled ‘Panorama’ and ‘Forum’ with more experimental leanings.

Figlia Mia was an exceptional, visually stunning, mesmerizing offering about familial love. Well-known Italian actress Valeria Golino plays Tina, a devoted mother of adopted young Vittoria (Sara Casu), who is the daughter of a Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher) who gave her up in infancy. Fast forward to Vittoria being 10-11-year-old and her path crosses with Angelica’s and she becomes fascinated with this care-free, larger-than-life character who is also a highly temperamental, unhinged, hopeless drunk. Tina fears that she may loose Vittoria to her newfound relationship with her real mother and this sets up all sorts of confrontations. The film’s merits lie on so many levels; from its simplicity, its depth and richness of characters and the actor that play them, especially the raw emotional delivery of Rohrwacher; all the way to the breathtaking nature surrounding this Sardinian fishing village. Director Laura Bispuri uses continuous close-up face shots which flactuate in and out of focus with the permanent background of the sun drenched, washed-out blue sky. Its an absolute gem of a film!

The Real Estate is a unique but also a contrary affair. Viewers may find it visually assaulting at first but the genius of directors Måns Månsson, and Axel Petersén, manages to eventually kick in. The film has a gritty and ugly feel with a heavy use of deliberate grainy lensing making coupled with a mixture disturbingly funny character portrayals, its quite a punk rock style of filmmaking. It goes off tangent at points with the injection of many scenes which carry on for a lengthy period. Lenore Ekstrand is astounding as the sixty eight-year-old Nojet who lives a decadent life on monthly allowances and never having to work. She inherit an apartment block in downtown Stockholm after her father’s death and what at first appears to be a cash cow is in fact a curse, as her nephew is subletting the flats out illegally without contracts. It’s such a bold movie and Ekstrand bares everything, literally physically and emotionally especially in quite an authentic sex scene. The Real Estate makes a refreshing watch but perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea.

Utoyia was shot in one long shot and its a poignant telling of the real-life story of an armed right-wing extremist who attack a social democrat youth camp on the Norwegian island of Utoyia and ends up claiming the lives of 69 people. The films tails the 19 year-old Kaya (Andrea Berntzen) over a 72 minute period, the actual time that events took place auntil the police arrived on the scene. The jangly camera permanently behind Kaja’s shoulder as she navigates her way through the camp, in utter terror running for her life through the forrest down to the sea shore, simultaneously looking for sister, as fellow campers are being massacred all over the place. You never see the perpetrator but the continuous sound of gunshots signals his presence. It’s an experiential cinema as well as a visual one. It’s gripping throughout, you become breathless just watching as there is no moment of stillness or relief, its unrelenting.

Utoyia Berlinale 2018 Candid Magazine
Andrea Berntzen stars as Kaya in ‘Utoyia’.

The film follows a familiar trajectory of the trials and tribulations of a famous actress. Reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman style of filming; shot in monochrome; the film recreates a three-day period in the lush French hotel resort of Quiberon, a rehab clinic where you can bizarrely order alcohol, where well-known German actress Romy Schneider’s’ life gave a famously tell-all interview. Schneider over a three day period exposes personal secrets of her battle with alcohol, the trappings of fame, her roller-coaster career and guilt for neglecting her children. Marie Bäumer is splendid as the troubled Schneider displaying the multiple complexities of her character eloquently and remaining captivating throughout. 3 Days in Quiberon is a rarity in comparison to today’s fil, in that it allows for a lengthy character depiction.

7 Days in Entebbe details the true story of two German freedom fighters Wilfried Böse (Daniel Bruhl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) who hijacked of an Air France flight in 1976, flying from Tel Aviv to Paris, in a bid to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people. Along with two other Palestinian activists they managed to divert the plane to an airport in Entebbe, Uganda. Based around a seven day period, we are privy to the hijack and the subsequent daring mission to rescue the hostages. Surprisingly it avoids any soppiness for a Working Title film; but at the same time lacks any oomph and follows a rather generic, banal path. The film is presented in such a broad and general presentation, very little focus on the hostages, keeping audiences at arms length from garnering any emotion. Furthermore, it fails to capitalize on really good performances by Bruhl, Pike and an unrecognisable Eddie Marsan as Shimon Perez. Pike especially delivers a superb performance as the steely, determined freedom fighter, with what appears to be a fluent German accent to boot.

Land is centred around a Native American family living in a reservation, whose current status quo is the result of the current social-economical of Native Americans in the US. The equilibrium of this quitely resigned family is disrupted once news that the youngest brother dies at war in Afghanistan. Its a truly hypnotic film as director Babak Jalali forces the audiences to slow down by shifting permanently into first gear. He allows the film to breathe and provide a depth and colour to his characters in numerous subtle ways. Its either through the long silenced pauses between conversation or the stillness of the desert or the motionless camera angles of big expansive spaces. Even as distressing and troubling as things get, its very much in an unhurried stride. The actors impress with their ability to convey their historical weight of their people and Jalali illustrates the exclusion of this group from American mainstream society by highlighting their struggle with powerlessness, low prospects, exploitation and rampant alcohol abuse.

The 68th Berlin International Film Festival takes place from 15th- 25th February 2018.

Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_

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