Berlinale 2010: Dispatch 2

Exit through the Shop

In her second dispatch from Berlin, Pamela Jahn tells us about Banksy’s first directorial effort as well as a German crime thriller based on the real-life story of an Austrian robber-cum-marathon runner. Check this section for more reports from the festival in the coming days.

Exit through the Gift Shop
Given all you know, or rather don’t know about Banksy, it comes as quite a surprise that for his first foray into filmmaking the clandestine street artist has made a documentary that to a certain extent features his secretive self. Billed as ‘the world’s first street art disaster movie’, Exit through the Gift Shop gives an exclusive insight into the street art scene of recent years as seen through the eyes of an over-excited French second-hand-clothing dealer, Thierry Guetta, who became obsessed with videotaping street artists and graffitists at work in Los Angeles and abroad, and ultimately plunged into the art scene himself. Both Guetta’s life and Banksy’s film take a dramatic turn as the illustrious Frenchman and the street artist become friends. Encouraged by Banksy to mount his own show, Guetta conquers the art world as Mr Brainwash and in return entrusts his enormous tape collection to Banksky who knows how to use the material to good effect. What follows has to be seen to be believed – or not. For entertaining as Exit through the Gift Shop is, it is not quite clear whether what we see is real or just another hoax, or as Bansky himself prudently claims in a video message that precedes the screening: ‘As it turns out, some of the people don’t believe it anyway and they think the film is some kind of spoof. This is ironic because Exit through the Gift Shop is one of the most honest films you’ll ever see.’

Exit through the Gift Shop is released in UK cinemas by Revolver Entertainment on March 5.

The Robber (Der Räuber)
Based on the real-life case of the Austrian serial bank robber who became known as ‘Pump-gun Ronnie’ in the late 80s, Benjamin Heisenberg’s The Robber was a welcome discovery in a competition section that so far has been rather dreary. The film tells the story of Johann Rettenberger (Andreas Lust), both a successful marathon runner and confirmed criminal, who is driven by a constant, uncontrollable need for speed and adrenalin rushes. Shortly after he is once more released from jail, Rettenberger inevitably falls back into his old habits, raiding and running, and soberly measuring his heart rate after any physical strain. He even breaks records as an athlete at local competitions, but neither the sport nor the unconditional love he receives from his girlfriend Erika (Franziska Weisz) can bring his troubled mind to rest. Following a man permanently on the move, Heisenberg succeeds in capturing the inner turmoil of Rettenberger’s animal-like spirit with the same meticulous precision and steely determination that his character puts into his strict training scheme. And although some might argue that with its bleak, cold visual style and sparse narrative The Robber doesn’t add anything new to the gangster genre, the film is well done and has an unsettling intensity and unfaltering energy from start to finish.

Read Pamela Jahn’s first report from the Berlinale.