internationale filmfestspiele edizione


Berlino, 07 / 17 febbraio 2013




di Willem De Rycker

> No man's land di Salomé Lamas

> promised land di Gus Van Sant
> THE best offer
di Giuseppe Tornatore

> THE DAUGHTER di Thanos Anastopoulos


THE Daughter
di Thanos Anastopoulos
Grecia 2013, 87'




Making comments on the ironic twists and turns of screening a film on Greece's current state of affairs during a German film festival would probably be about as healthy as taking a quick dip in a bathtub of sulphuric acid, so we'll just leave it at that – behind titanium-alloyed doors.
The Daughter, presents itself as a social drama set against the background of Greece's current economic upheaval and political turmoil. Knowing that the director opted for an experimental approach from the very start of the project, for both artistic and financial reasons, will presumably spark an interest amongst some of you; but interesting though it may sound on paper, in practise it leaves much to be desired. Both the synopsis and setting would lead you to expect a gut-wrenching drama riddled with vehement political statements and harrowing, all-too-real events that leave you stirred and appalled, but it never genuinely delivers.
Frankly, as a charge against the inhumane treatment of the Greeks in the wake of financial crisis, it simply falls short.

As the film commences, we follow Myrto, a fourteen-year-old girl in search of her missing father, as she makes her way through some of Greece's harsh day-to-day realities, crossing stacks of unpaid bills, black markets and mass protests along the way. Unfortunately, these insightful moments are generally treated far too briefly, never allowing any of them to truly sink in. In fact, they do little more than linger. It almost becomes an unpronounced theme in the film: plenty of social concepts, potentially powerful images and semi-militant notions are dropped throughout that could nail all but the hardiest-of-tummy to their seats, but they are seldom picked up on and properly fleshed out, making the entirety of the film feel like a whisper of what it could have been – a skimming-through rather than an actual read.

The slow-paced plot, which consists of chronologically complex, interwoven story lines and improvised dialogues, is only vaguely present and doesn't really unfold itself until the last thirty minutes. Because of this narrative set-up, the audience is left to make sense of what's actually going on between the main characters for most of the film. Again, this could have made for an interesting experience, but in all earnestness, it mainly comes off as smoke and mirrors attempting to conceal the plot's all-too-simple core and lack of credibility, rather than an ingenious new take on story-telling. The soundness and tangibility the story needs to draw you in and make you identify with its characters and situations just isn't there.
Nor do the actors really add anything to resolve this predicament, sadly. As mentioned before, the dialogue is mostly improvised - which can create a fertile soil for intriguing performances when properly sown and tended to, but yields a meagre harvest in this case, leaving a strained, rigid impression instead. The characters generally come off as passive and wood-like, robotic even, making them nearly impossible to relate to.
Not that it's badly acted out – far from it. As with most of the film, it feels as though the wrong choices were made when trying to decide on how to convey its themes to the audience. As if the shape does not fit the blueprint. Never once during the screening did I get the feeling that I was watching a bad film – it just couldn't raise enough of an intrigue to keep my initial curiosity sated. Little was lost, but nothing was truly gained either.
As credit is due where it is deserved, the one upside definitely worth mentioning is the way in which wood is portrayed in this film, tacky though it may sound. It is nothing short of baffling. As most of the drama is set in a lumber yard, there is plenty of it around to feast your eyes and other senses upon – quite literally at that. Wood is depicted in such a vividly life-like and organic fashion that it makes for an amazingly sensitory experience. The fragrant scent of pine and ebony almost seems to come humming through the screen, carving its way into the theatre and up your nostrils in an exhilarating rush of vivaciousness and tangibility.
And, admittedly - if you'd care to do such a thing - nearly all of THE DAUGHTER's flaws can be rationalised at a conceptual level: the passive acting might be interpreted as a symbolic representation of Greece's need to rise up and the rest of the world's inability to relate, the shaky camera work and looming violence as a testament to Athens' current state of mind, and so on, but personally, I find it too thin a veil to account for the film's lack of credibility and inability to make you identify with any of its characters.
In the end, despite THE DAUGHTER's fully-fledged undercurrents and its experimental, low-budget set-up pulsating with interesting concepts and ideas, it sadly fails to deliver due to an utter lack of credibility, leaving you with an after-taste of missed opportunity and circumvented chances all the way through.

promised land
di Gus Van Sant
Stati Uniti 2012, 106'




Choices are seldom easy. Yet if we do not make our own, someone will take over the steering wheel and make them for us - for better, or, more likely, for worse. But when the devil strolls into town with a promise of release from poverty and worries, what would you decide?
The story takes off when two 'landmen', Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), are sent to acquire lands and leases from the residents of a small, rural community for 'Global', a fictitious oil company that has its eyes set on the bounty of natural gas hidden deep beneath the idyllic backdrop of the township. However, that's about as far as fiction goes in this film – careful research done in preparation of the shooting makes both the characters and setting of the film quiver with realism and authenticity, portraying a mythical, malleable land filled to the brim with contemporary environmental and social mores. As the main characters present themselves, the town is set before a crossroads, but all of its destinations are vague at best. If there is to be prosperity, there is to be a cost as well – but who's paying for it?
Unlike so many others, Promised Land does not avoid asking any of the tough questions in the social themes it raises, yet at the same time manages to avoid all of the clichés and pitfalls which usually accompany them. The seemingly dichotomous themes the film raises - agriculture versus industry, pride versus compliance, nature versus the modern world... are just so: seemingly. All sides of the spectrum are carefully explored throughout the film, without ever presenting a clear-cut, pre-chewed answer, (which, in reality, there isn't) for its audience to swallow. Rather, it smoothly dances from one end to the next without ever falling into extremes, absorbing them into its own, unbiased fabric as it waltzes on.
From the smallest cameo to the leading actors, all of the characters have their own stance on how to deal with our present and future conundrums, creating a moral battleground that is soon tinted by a myriad of astonishingly profound, colourful shades of grey. Rather than having the characters portrayed by archetypical embodiments of 'good' and 'evil', which would be altogether too easy, all of them have a thoroughly fleshed out, breathing persona, and are unafraid of showing or embarrassing themselves, making for highly believable, honest performances that stir you to the core.

the best offer
di Giuseppe Tornatore
Italia 2012, 131'


Berlinale Special Gala


Plainly put, The Best Offer could be regarded as the Da Vinci Code of Cinema. If you are looking for a pre-chewed waterfall of short, page-turneresque scenes rushing in front of your eyes, kept afloat by Ennio Morricone's soundtrack and Geoffrey Rush's performance – both as brilliant as ever, this ought to be your cup of the old chai. If, on the other hand, you are looking for original story-telling or a marvel of creativity, it would probably be best to let this one slide.
The vast majority of the film feels like running through an alleyway pretending very hard to be a maze, riddled from start to end with big, flashing signs saying 'this way'. None of the performances, photography or music score are to be blamed for this contrivance, the true culprit being the script – which is as transparent, uninspired and predictable as they come. Or rather, as they're 'spawned'.
Spawned being the correct term, as The Best Offer is a field demonstration of the producer's game at its finest – impossible to enjoy once you realise that you're looking at a formula being applied; a series of parameters being run through rather than a creative piece of work. The over-fabricated blueprint of the film shines through all of its aspects, relying solely on frantic sleights of hand, as well as Rush and Morricone's contributions, to draw attention away from the bareness of its mediocre script.
Strip them away, and nothing about the film remains standing whatsoever.
So, if you are looking for an easy run-through devoid of inspiration hauled along by a beautiful soundtrack and the ever-enjoyable Geoffrey Rush: head over to the nearest theatre. If not, stay as far away from this film as humanly possible. 20/30 – due to Rush and Morricone.

no man's land
di Salomé Lamas
Portogallo 2012, 72'




First things first: this experimental piece of documentary is not for everyone. Its arrhythmic, intermittent style of montage takes quite some getting used to, its sometimes literally translated English subtitles make it hard to understand at times (or such was the case with the version I watched), and the sheer amount of names and fractions mentioned left and right are easy to be taken aback by. At least, for those of us who have no intimate knowledge of twentieth century Portuguese colonial history and Spanish politics. However, if you are willing to let the ground beneath your feet slide and accept that you have no legs to stand on, you're in for a baffling sixty-seven minutes of contemporary cinema.
tells the tale of Paulo, a former Portuguese commando-mercenary-assassin gone hobo, or rather, he tells it himself. Venturing beyond the outlines of conventional documentary, this film foregoes all preliminary information and en route revelations for the sake of creating a highly confrontational, confessional no-man's land – a magical circle in which truth and myth collide as they are shaped and captured by the camera. Ellipsis and the blurring, possibly non-existent boundaries between fact and fiction, exaggeration and denial are the pillars of strength this film stands upon.
At first, it may feel as though you're plunging in pitch-black due to a lack of foreknowledge, but as the interview progresses and Paulo's life story unfolds, this hapless feeling actually turns out to be the roaring, intrinsically powerful undercurrent which the film floats upon. It casts you in a twilight zone that, on the one hand, constantly confronts you with the sheer dreadfulness of the outlandish, shadowy existence this man has lead, and on the other, renders it impossible for you not to sympathise.
Somewhere halfway through the interview Paulo dryly comments on riding a motorcycle through a restaurant at lunch time, for instance, gunning down seven members of ETA along the way with a semi-automatic weapon before blasting his way through the back door to make his getaway. It's narrated action as it is seldom seen or told.
The more you identify with this stunningly versatile narrator as he smiles, jokes, remembers and regrets his way through the film, the more confrontational it grows. Because at the same time, as we delve deeper into his life's story, the more the mechanisms of contradiction and self-justification begin to surface, highlighting the bipolar nature of both his tale and our own – the aspects of history we tend to sweep under the rug altogether too easily. It is a testament to humanity in its own, compellingly sad way.
Once the film departs from the confession chair and into the streets, throwing its frame wide open and connecting it to our own, outside world, it becomes apparent just what an extraordinarily powerful piece of cinema
NO MAN'S LAND really is. Watching Paulo as he fools around with an African hobo, who's also an air-guitar hero, trying to settle once and for all whom of them the female is and should therefore cook, is as queer as it is heartbreaking.
does an amazing job at raising the questions that go unasked far too often. It offers a glimpse at the pages of European colonial history and shadowy political mechanics we usually dare not look at or even speak of, championing dialogue and openness in an upfront, disarming kind of way. This brave, astonishingly powerful piece of work that may be hard to tune in to, but if you are willing to let it, it will return the effort tenfold, sweeping you right off your feet.



63.internationale filmfestspiele

Berlino, 07 / 17 febbraio 2013