Celebrating its 65th anniversary, this year’s Berlinale promises exciting new works from some of our favourite directors. And while the line-up is the usual mixed bag of hits and misses, there is still a great diversity of films on show that go beyond the eye-catching heavyweights, high-profile gala features and prestige ‘Berlinale Special’ screenings, which this year include the likes of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s much talked-about adaptation of EL James’s erotic fiction Fifty Shades of Grey and Anton Corbijn’s James Dean biopic Life.
One of the greatest highlights for us is undoubtedly Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room, screening in the notoriously unpredictable Forum section. Following his ambitious noir gangster ghost tale Keyhole in 2012, Maddin, who has a long-standing relationship with the festival, returns with a film, co-directed by Evan Johnson, that resembles an endless nightmare where plot, characters and locations constantly flow into one another.
Screening in Competition are Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Pablo Larraín’s The Club, Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert and Sabu’s Chasuke’s Journey, alongside other notable contenders such as Alexey German Jr.’s Under Electric Clouds, Radu Jude’s Balkan western Aferim!, and the highly anticipated German entry Victoria, by Sebastian Schipper. Plus, following on the heels of last year’s eccentric Berlinale winner Black Coal, Thin Ice, comes Chinese offering Gone With the Bullets, the second part of Jiang Wen ‘Bullet’ trilogy, which started with his cryptic 2010 comedy gangster drama Let the Bullets Fly.
Among the films we will be checking out in the Forum and Panorama strands are Emyr ap Richard and Darhad Erdenibulag’s quietly radical adaptation of the Kafka classic K, Mitchell Lichtenstein’s haunting game of insecurities Angelica, and Mark Christopher’s rediscovered and extended 54: Director’s Cut. We also look forward to Marcin Malaszczak’s The Days Run Away like Wild Horses over the Hills, which takes its title from a collection of poems Charles Bukowski wrote for his lover, and Matthias Glasner’s Blochin – The Living and the Dead, the pilot to a new German TV crime drama series starring Jürgen Vogel.
As always, the Berlinale will present a vast number of documentaries, this time focusing quite heavily on cult figures and troubled artists including Fassbinder, Nina Simone, Kurt Cobain and Yvonne Rainer, while Joshua Oppenheimer is at hand to present The Look of Silence, his acclaimed follow-up to The Act of Killing. Also of note is B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin about the music, art and chaos in the wild West-Berlin of the 1980s, and Jean-Gabriel Périot’s A German Youth, which looks at the gradual transformation and increasing politicisation of the Red Army Faction (RAF) at the end of the 1960s until they took up armed resistance, constructed entirely from archive footage and audio material.
Germany in the late 60s also features heavily in this year’s Berlinale Classics strand, which offers a rare chance to see Jürgen Böttcher’s Born in ’45 on the big screen, alongside newly restored versions of E. A. Dupont’s Varieté and Richard Brooks’s In Cold Blood. Finally, this year’s Retrospective celebrates the 100th anniversary of ‘Glorious Technicolor’ films, with titles including John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven, Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur and Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus.