Ten films we’re looking forward to at the 2023 Berlinale
by David Katz
- Movies by Christian Petzold and Angela Schanelec, and stars such as jury president Kristen Stewart and Vicky Krieps, will be present at the Palast
The industry seems to be proceeding with guarded optimism into the upcoming Berlinale and European Film Market. Running from 16-26 February, the impending festival will be the first fully fledged and widely attended one since the pandemic hit, and the programming seems to have responded to the changed theatrical landscape and viewer preferences by selecting a more genre-diverse competition – one that isn’t fully beholden to adult arthouse tastes. Kristen Stewart will be a popular jury president, compering the likes of directors Radu Jude, Carla Simón and Johnnie To, and Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, as they hand out the main competition prizes.
US awards season hopefuls Steven Spielberg and Todd Field will also be in town to domestically premiere their latest films, whilst viewers of a certain age will enjoy reuniting with those late-2000s neurotic teen icons Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera, who often occupied the same niche in American indie cinema and have adult lead roles in Manodrome [+see also:
film profile] and The Adults, respectively.
So, onward with ten picks to look out for if you’re on the ground or following from home. Danke!
Afire [+see also:
interview: Christian Petzold
film profile] – Christian Petzold
(Germany – Competition)
The Berlin School stalwart, who clearly has as much of a thing for one-word titles as Christopher Nolan, returns for the second part of his elements and mythology trilogy, which began with Undine [+see also:
interview: Christian Petzold
film profile]. This one follows two male friends – a novelist and an artist – who settle in at a holiday home on the Baltic coast, where “experimentations with love” and forest fires await. But how will he depict the latter, when so many films use bad CG flames?
Premieres 19:00, Wednesday 22 February, at Berlinale Palast
The Beast in the Jungle [+see also:
film profile] - Patric Chiha
(France/Belgium/Austria – Panorama)
The first of two adaptations this year of Henry James’s gothic novella (Bertrand Bonello and Léa Seydoux have made the other), this feature boasts one of the festival’s most attractive casts, with Anaïs Demoustier, Synonyms [+see also:
interview: Nadav Lapid
film profile]’ Tom Mercier and the deathless Béatrice Dalle in the leads. Following the former two actors as they wait for an “extraordinary, all-changing moment” to occur, it spans the period 1979-2004 and seems to take place largely in a neon-specked nightclub, where the music shifts from disco to techno.
Premieres 18:30, Friday 17 February, at Zoo Palast 1
Here [+see also:
interview: Bas Devos
film profile] - Bas Devos
(Belgium – Encounters)
In the popular Encounters section, eyes immediately alighted on this fourth feature from Bas Devos, a Flemish filmmaker poised to make a wider industry breakthrough. With the director evocatively described by the festival as a “hunter-gatherer of beauty in urban landscapes”, this seems a romantic parable of globalisation, following a bond between a Romanian construction worker living in Brussels and a young Belgian-Chinese plant biologist.
Premieres 16:30, Sunday 19 February, at Akademie der Künste
In Ukraine [+see also:
interview: Piotr Pawlus, Tomasz Wolski
film profile] - Piotr Pawlus, Tomas Wolski
(Poland/Germany – Forum)
One of many shows of solidarity to the Ukrainian cause in the line-up, this observational, immersive documentary from the Polish co-directors will be one of the very first selections screened for the press on the ground, underlining its urgency. The directorial team sets out on a journey across Western Ukraine, unveiling a wider and more complex reality than the images seen in the mass media.
Premieres 18:15, Saturday 18 February, at Delphi Filmpalast
Ingeborg Bachmann - Journey into the Desert [+see also:
interview: Margarethe von Trotta
film profile] - Margarethe von Trotta
(Switzerland/Austria/Germany/Luxembourg – Competition)
One of the most rigorous and intelligent directors of biographical films, Margarethe von Trotta returns, after her prescient movie on Hannah Arendt, with this study of the relationship between Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (Vicky Krieps) and her Swiss colleague Max Frisch (Ronald Zehrfeld). The “journey into the desert” refers to a trip Bachmann made to Egypt in her prime, little depicted in the recent media concerning the author, which includes new republications and translations of her texts, as well as Ruth Beckermann’s film The Dreamed Ones [+see also:
Premieres 19:00, Sunday 19 February, at Berlinale Palast
Music [+see also:
film profile] - Angela Schanelec
(Germany/France/Serbia – Competition)
One of the cult social-media highlights of every major festival are English critic Neil Young’s betting odds (click here). Sensibly for sure (although we can’t verify his mathematical process), this much-anticipated work from Angela Schanelec currently has the shortest Golden Bear odds at 3-1, a placement befitting the esteem for the German auteur in current art-film circles. It’s a modern spin on the Oedipus myth, set partially in Greece, and said to be very experimental.
Premieres 15:45, Tuesday 21 February, at Berlinale Palast
Passages [+see also:
film profile] - Ira Sachs
(France – Panorama)
Something emphasised in film publicity is the need for eye-catching stills, and Passages’ signature one of Franz Rogowski and Adèle Exarchopoulos in the club is so perfect that it could have been generated by very adept AI. After a successful Sundance premiere, and some strong initial international sales to MUBI, this tale of a tortured, problematic filmmaker (Rogowski) and his affairs will be a sought-after Palast ticket.
Premieres internationally 21:30, Monday 20 February, at Zoo Palast 1
Past Lives - Celine Song
(USA – Competition)
After First Cow, Never Rarely Sometimes Always [+see also:
film profile] and Boyhood (remember that?) in past years, this debut from the Korean-American playwright will be the high-profile American international premiere in competition. In a movie compared thus far to Before Sunrise, Greta Lee and Leto [+see also:
interview: Ilya Stewart
film profile] star Teo Yoo play two Korean childhood friends who reunite in New York and muse on romantic pathways unfulfilled.
Premieres internationally 15:45, Sunday 19 February, at Berlinale Palast
Samsara [+see also:
interview: Lois Patiño
film profile] - Lois Patiño
(Spain – Encounters)
The Galician director has gradually become one of the more cherished experimental directors in world cinema, and initial word is very promising on his second full-length feature, set in Laos amidst an educational retreat at a Buddhist temple. With its title referring to the Buddhist concept of the passage through the afterlife, this should be another heady experience from Patiño: its early images promise as much.
Premieres 12:30, Monday 20 February, at Akademie Der Künste
Talk to Me - Danny and Michael Philippou
(Australia - Berlinale Special)
Echoing the lead programmers’ commitment to showcasing popular cinema and engaging younger viewers, the prime pick from the festival’s genre selections is this hyped, Evil Dead-esque horror from Australian YouTubers Danny and Michael Philippou. After royally freaking out Sundance with this intense debut, they garnered an A24 distribution deal, and won the praise of Ari Aster, the fashionable US studio’s golden boy.
Shows 22:30, Tuesday 21 February, at International
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