As we are ever expanding, our most recent stop on the International film stage is the 65th Berlinale in the great city of Berlin, Germany. As usual, we have put together 10 films we consider to be must watch cinema, with 2015’s slate being particularly strong.
Drawing from the spectrum of the festival’s offering, our list features new films from a heavyweight trifecta of Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, alongside indie favorites Alex Ross Perry, Bill Condon and Guy Maddin. Film’s featured on this list are in no specific order, although ‘Knight of Cups‘ is awfully tempting to deem a “must watch.”
So, check out our list, tell us if you agree or if you have something you are particularly looking forward too. As usual, if you see us around, come over and say hi!
The 2015 Berlin International Film Festival takes place February 5-15, 2015 around Berlin, Germany.
Knight of Cups
Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman
Rick is a slave to the Hollywood system. He is addicted to success but simultaneously despairs at the emptiness of his life. He is at home in a world of illusions but seeks real life. Like the tarot card of the title, Rick is easily bored and needs outside stimulation. But the Knight of Cups is also an artist, a romantic and an adventurer. In Terrence Malick’s seventh film a gliding camera once again accompanies a tormented hero on his search for meaning. Once again a voiceover is laid over images which also seek their own authenticity. And once again Malick seems to put the world out of joint. His symphonic flow of images contrasts cold, functional architecture with the ageless beauty of nature. Rick’s internal monologue coalesces with the voices of the women who cross his path, women who represent different principles in life: while one lives in the real world, the other embodies beauty and sensuality. Which path will Rick choose? In the city of angels and the desert that surrounds it, will he find his own way?
Queen of the Desert
Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damien Lewis and Robert Pattinson
The film tells the story of Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) who, as historian, novelist and member of the British secret service, played a decisive role around 1920 in setting the course for the new political order in the Middle East. As an educated young woman, for whom no suitable husband can be found in England, she journeys to Tehran. After a tragic love affair with diplomat and inveterate gambler Henry Cadogan, she decides to give up on her private life and discover the region as an explorer. Before the backdrop of the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire she learns languages, translates literature, meets with Muslim dignitaries in Cairo, Basra and Baghdad and earns their trust through her pluck and respect. Predestined to be a mediator between the Orient and the British Empire, she contributes to defining the new borders in the region after the First World War. And then love enters her life once again. Werner Herzog uses the vast desert landscapes to depict the architecture of his characters’ souls. A panoramic epic about the woman who has gone down in history as ‘the female Lawrence of Arabia‘.
Everything Will Be Fine
Directed by Wim Wenders
Starring James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rachel McAdams, Marie-Josée Croze, Robert Naylor, Patrick Bauchau and Peter Stormare
A winter evening. A country road. It’s snowing, the visibility is poor. Out of nowhere comes a sled slid down a hill. Emergency braking, the car comes to a stand. Silence. The writer Tomas is not to blame for this tragic accident, as well as the little Christopher, the better his brother could watch, and Kate, the mother of two who had children early to call into the house … Tomas falls into a deep hole. The relationship with his girlfriend Sara shattered by the impact. Tomas saves himself in his writing. But he can to process experiences that involve the suffering of others? The film follows twelve years his attempt to give life meaning again and set up their own family. Just as he follows Kate and Christopher until the is 17 years old and decided to seeing these strangers, he has only once, on that fateful evening made. Everything Will Be Fine told in a prudent and accurate way of guilt and Search for forgiveness, and the fact that it is not the time heals wounds, but also the courage to face. And to forgive himself
The Forbidden Room
Directed by Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Rampling and Udo Kier
A game cast including Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Rampling, and Udo Kier embody a cavalcade of misfits, thieves, and lovers, imbuing passion and humor into Guy Maddin’s new epic (co-directed by Evan Johnson). Visuals, sound, even story are layered upon themselves, color schemes morph into and over one another, as each element heightens the joyful delirium of the kaleidoscopic viewing experience. The film also contains copious amounts of the filmmaker’s trademark twisted whimsy and absurdist eroticism—from a lusty crew of female skeletons to an exceptionally catchy musical celebration of the derriere.
Queen of Earth
Directed by Alex Ross Perry
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson, Kate Lyn Sheil and Craig Butta
Catherine and Virginia are best friends. Last year, Virginia wasn’t doing well, while it’s Catherine who’s struggling this year. Virginia’s parents own a lakeside cabin, the perfect place for a week of mutual wound licking. Sun pours in through the windows, framing the cool green of the trees outside. But this isn’t the refuge it seems and it’s not just the music that awakens the menace in the images. The ripples across the lake and the wan sunlight offer little comfort, to say nothing of the picture of a skull lying forgotten in a cupboard. Last year’s events keep crashing in upon the present, things weren’t good then and they aren’t better now. When the two women confide in one another, it’s like two separate monologues, the camera gliding between their strained faces as if they were one and the same. They otherwise stick to wry barbs, each criticizing the other’s privilege as they still cling on to their bond. As salad leaves wilt, men come and go, and tension gives way to hostility, what even remains of this friendship? Dark-ringed eyes alight with rage, a stream of quiet bile, one face cut into another, two true Queens of Earth.
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Starring Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton and Ben Kingsley
In 1955, ambitious Hollywood photographer Dennis Stock and the then still unknown James Dean meet at one of Nicholas Ray’s parties. Stock recognises in the young actor, who has just completed filming EAST OF EDEN, an extraordinary talent and hopes to further his own career via a series of portraits for ‘Life’ magazine. Newcomer Dean is stressed by studio boss Jack Warner’s demands for him to get on the PR bandwagon for Elia Kazan’s film and goes into hiding in the country. Stock accompanies the camera-shy star to his native ranch in Indiana where he has his roots. Once back in New York, Stock captures the world famous image which keeps the legend alive to this day. Anton Corbijn is less interested in the life of the idol of a new generation than in the creation of a myth and the role ‘Life’ photographer Dennis Stock’s portraits had in the iconisation of Dean. The meeting of these two young men led to the creation of a series of world-famous images of a cult star before he died at the age of just 24. ‘James Dean haunted Times Square’ went on to become one of the most reproduced photograhps of the 20th century.
Nobody Wants the Night
Directed by Isabel Coixet
Starring Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi, Gabriel Byrne, Orto Ignatiussen, Alberto Jo Lee, Clarence Smith, Ben Temple, Matthew Salinger, Reed Brody and Ciro Miró
Greenland, 1908. Josephine, self-confident and bold wife of famous Arctic explorer Robert Peary, embarks on a dangerous journey in pursuit of her husband who is seeking a route to the North Pole. But Josephine is also naïve and ignores warnings from experienced polar travellers about the onset of winter. At great sacrifice the expedition reaches Peary’s base camp. Josephine refuses to go home and wants to spend winter in the hut. Only the young Inuit woman Allaka, who lives in an igloo and knows about the cold, stays with her. As the long nights draw nearer, Josephine realises she has more in common with this woman from a different world than she thought. Isabel Coixet has already participated in the Berlinale six times and was a member of the jury in 2009. Once again she depicts a woman who proves her courage and readiness to take risks beyond her everyday life. In addition, Josephine has to learn to adapt to a different culture and way of living to survive in the perpetual ice. The camera unveils the loneliness of the two women in the midst of forbidding nature but also, within the darkness and confinement, their closeness which is essential for their survival.
Diary of a Chambermaid
Directed by Benoit Jacquot
Starring Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Clotilde Mollet, Hervé Pierre, Mélodie Valemberg, Patrick D’Assumçao, Vincent Lacoste, Joséphine Derenne and Dominique Reymond
France, around 1900. Coming from the vibrancy of Paris, pert Célestine is procured as a chambermaid in Normandy. In the Lanlaire’s villa she encounters the lecherous man of the house and his asexual, tyrannical and jealous wife. Célestine is determined to avoid the fate suffered by the cook Marianne who has already secretly killed one child born out of wedlock and now despairingly realises she is pregnant again. The lively maid is intrigued by what the mysterious manservant Joseph is up to: he distributes anti-Semitic leaflets and suggests that she could work for him as a prostitute in Cherbourg … Following in the footsteps of Jean Renoir (1946) and Luis Buñuel (1964), Benoit Jacquot employs Octave Mirbeau’s novel to cast a sardonic eye on the bourgeoisie. Told from the perspective of the diary of a young woman who puts her sensuality to good use in order to secure the life she desires, Jacquot reflects upon the power of the apparently powerless and the impotence of the purportedly powerful. The figure of the servant uncovers the dark underbelly of the early 20th century, and also the insecurities of our present day.
Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Ian McKellan, Milo Parker and Laura Linney
England in 1947. The famous detective Sherlock Holmes, now 93 years old, lives in his Sussex country house. When he goes to the cinema and sees a film about himself, he mostly shakes his head. For much of what he is purported to have done in the heroic stories has simply been made up. He never wore the legendary hat and, rather than the pipe, he always preferred a cigarette. Long since retired, he steers clear of people and dedicates himself chiefly to bee-keeping. The only people he suffers to be around him are housekeeper Mrs Munro and her small son Roger, whom Holmes is initiating into the secrets of apiculture. But sometimes his thoughts are beset by old cases. What really went on with the mysterious Ann Kelmot, whom he shadowed at her husband’s behest? And what connects him to the Umezaki family, who have invited him to Japan? Holmes undertakes one final big journey, experiences a botanical miracle and resolves to tell a compassionate lie … Freely adapted from Mitch Cullin’s novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind”, Bill Condon’s film reflects upon the interplay between truth and legend, age and memory, unresolved guilt and the chance to finally make peace with oneself
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Directed by Brett Moren
Experience Kurt Cobain like never before in the first fully authorized portrait of the famed rock music icon. Director Brett Morgen expertly blends Cobain’s personal archive of art, music, and never-before-seen home movies with animation and revelatory interviews with his family and closest confidants. Following Kurt from his earliest years in Aberdeen, Washington, through the height of his fame, a visceral and detailed cinematic insight of an artist at odds with his surroundings emerges. While Cobain craved the spotlight even as he rejected the trappings of fame, his epic arc depicts a man who stayed true to his earliest punk rock convictions, always identifying with the “outsider” and ensuring the music came first. Fans and those of the Nirvana generation will learn things about Cobain they never knew while those who have recently discovered the man and his music will know what makes him the lasting icon that he is.
– Steve Rickinson (with additional words by Berlinale programming staff)