Counting down to the 63rd Berlinale
The 63rd annual Berlinale film festival begins this Thursday 7th of February. For 10 days, the movers and shakers of the international film industry – including a number of Hollywood A-listers from (apparently) George Clooney to Anne Hathaway, Isabella Rossellini to Nicolas Cage, Matt Damon to Amanda Seyfried… – will descend on the city to promote their latest flicks, discuss future projects, scout out the next big box-office hit… and generally celebrate film. But they’re not the only ones; what is special about the Berlinale film festival, in comparison to say, Cannes, is that the whole city seems to get involved. Ticket prices are reasonable and the screenings take place in cinemas and venues across the entire city. Last year, an incredible 300,000 tickets were sold.
Even purchasing the tickets – a long, cold and often complicated process – is part of the Berlinale experience. Due to the strict rules about how many tickets any one individual can buy per film, there is often a lot of bartering and striking of deals in the queue. It gets people talking, and I personally have had some good tip-offs here in the past. Tickets go on sale three days before the respective film screening, from 10am (though you are advised to arrive earlier) at a handful of ticket centres (the central ticket office is located at Potsdamer Platz).
Over the coming weeks I will be bringing you my stories from behind the scenes at the Berlinale, but in case you’re slightly overwhlemed by the 400-film-strong programme, I’ve put together a selection of highlights for you:
Dark Blood (2013) USA
It’s taken nearly two decades for River Phoenix’s final film to make it to the cinema screen. Cult star Phoenix died in 1993, before this strange thriller, directed by George Sluizer (who made the superb chiller The Vanishing) had finished shooting. Using River’s brother Joaquin to voice some of the incomplete dialogue, this is an offbeat treat for fans of unusual cinema.
Promised Land (2013) USA
Director Gus Van Sant reunites with star and writer of Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon, who also co-wrote the screenplay to this environmental drama with co-star John Krasinki. Based on a story by bestselling author Dave Eggers, this is a film that screams quality.
Cabaret (1972) USA
A chance to see the classic Berlin-based Weimar Republic-era musical drama directed by Bob Fosse, based on Christopher Isherwood’s famous stories, which is now half a century old. The retrospective screening of film, which features terrific performances by Lisa Minelli and Michael York, and an Oscar-winning one from Joel Grey, will be presented by Harold Nebenzal, a producer on the film. On the big screen, choreographer-turned-director Fosse’s incredible film comes to life.
Casablanca (1942) USA
Yes, they’re playing it again, Sam. Another retrospective of an Oscar-winning classic, introduced by Berlinale special guest Isabella Rossellini, whose mother Ingrid Bergman starred in this World War Two drama alongside Humphrey Bogart.
Lore (2012) GERMANY
Up-and-coming German actress Saskia Rosendahl stars in this European co-production, a moving coming of age story about a family coping with the havoc after the collapse of the German army at the end of the war.
Paradise: Hope (2013) GERMANY
The world premiere of the third in Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s highly-acclaimed interconnected trilogy, that have thus far covered the topics of ‘Love’ and ‘Faith’. Paradise: Hope is set in a fat camp in the Austrian mountains, where 13-year old Melanie falls in love with the camp director, forty years her senior.
Around 60 stills from Seidl’s trilogy are currently on display at c/o Berlin, alongside a fantastic retrospective of “the grandfather of modern Swedish photography” Christer Strömholm – the last exhibition at their home in the Postfuhramt in Mitte before they relocate to the Amerika-Haus just around the corner from the Hotel Concorde Berlin.
Here’s to a wonderful Berlinale!