Here, briefly, is a list of the ten films I most admired and enjoyed at the recent Berlin Film Festival. There were others I liked, of course, and perhaps I could/should have included Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman or Andres Veiel’s documentary about Joseph Beuys, but in the end I had to make some tough decisions. There were certainly no masterpieces, but these were the films that were the most fully satisfying for me.
In the main competition:
Ana, Mon Amour
Dir Calin Peter Netzer, Romania. With Mircea Postelnicu, Diana Cavalliotti, Adrien Titieni, Carmen Tanase.
An intense, psychologically astute account of a troubled relationship from its inception to its demise some years later, almost Bergman-esque in its precision and raw honesty.
The Other Side of Hope
Dir Aki Kaurismäki, Finland. With Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Ikka Koivula.
A tender fable, complete with the director’s customary deadpan comedy, about a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Helsinki and a shirt-salesman also hoping to start a new life.
Dir Sally Potter, UK. With Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz.
Deliciously dark, acerbic farce about a politician’s forlorn attempts to celebrate her appointment to the shadow cabinet with friends and a husband bent on telling the truth.
Dir Josef Hader, Austria. With Josef Hader, Pia Hierzegger, Georg Friedrich, Jörg Hartmann.
Broad but often very funny black comedy about a middle-aged music critic struggling to cope with being made redundant, with dreams of revenge, and with a wife eager to have a child.
Dir Marcelo Gomes, Brazil. With Julio Machado, Isabél Zuaa, Rômulo Braga,, Welket Bungué.
Handsome historical drama set in the wilds of 18th-century Brazil, about a lieutenant slowly but surely turning to revolutionary thoughts against his Portuguese oppressors.
Dir Thomas Arslan, Germany. With Georg Friedrich, Tristan Göbel, Marie Leuenberger, Hanna Karlberg.
Quiet but visually very eloquent study of the relationship between an engineer and his estranged, resentful teenage son, travelling together in northern Norway.
Of Body and Soul
Dir Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary. With Alexandra Burbly, Géza Morcsányi, Réka Tenki, Zoltán Schneider.
An intriguingly imaginative odd-couple romance, set in and around an abattoir; touching and funny.
Dir Teresa Villaverde, Portugal. With Joao Pedro Vaz, Alice Albergaria Borges, Beatriz Batarda, Clara Jost.
Fascinating low-key account of the effects of the economic crisis on the various members of a Portuguese family.
Plus two films in the Forum, out of competition:
Dir Nicolas Wackerbarth, Germany. With Andreas Lust, Judith Engel, Milena Dreissig, Stephan Grossman
Witty, resonant look at the power struggles that arise when an indecisive director repeatedly auditions for the lead role in her remake of Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant.
Dir Jeremy S Levine, USA. Documentary.
Shot over several years, a perceptive fly-on-the-wall portrait of an African-American teenager in St Louis trying to stay out of trouble and graduate.
Photos all courtesy of Berlinale 2017.