With most of the Berlin Film Festival competition titles now screened, there are some standouts. But sentiment on the ground here is that it’s the out of competition titles that have clearer crossover appeal. That’s a switch from last year when the main section went user-friendly. In 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel opened the festival to raves, and Boyhood won hearts a few days later. Ultimately, it was Chinese pic Black Coal, Thin Ice that was the top prize-winner, but Boyhood’s Richard Linklater was named Best Director, while Budapest Hotel scooped the Grand Jury Silver Bear. And just look where those films are now.
Among the competition films that are high on festgoers’ lists here thus far is Pablo Larrain’s exiled priests tale El Club. Larrain’s No was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar in 2013 and this current film has a lot of people talking, although it’s darker than the more commercial No which Sony Pictures Classics acquired.
Also scoring buzz is 45 Years, the UK drama from helmer Andrew Haigh. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as a married couple rocked by news from the past. Chile is further represented among the most-praised titles by water-as-metaphor documentary The Pearl Button from master Patricio Guzman. From Guatemala, Jayro Bustamante’s debut feature Ixcanul has picked up good notices. It’s the story of a Mayan girl who dreams of seeing the world beyond her family’s coffee plantation and the volcano that towers over it. Banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s Taxi has also been given high marks.
Several titles that are playing out of competition look to have more commercial prospects, and some have been met with consternation as to their omission from the main section. Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellen and Laura Linney was a real favorite. When asked at the film’s press conference why the movie wasn’t competing, McKellen said, “I don’t know the answer to that” which was followed by several seconds of silence. Miramax acquired U.S. rights in Toronto. Roadside Attractions is handling the domestic release on the story of the titular detective as he nears the end of his days and revisits an unsolved case which forced him into retirement.
Another movie that drew queries as to its berth out of competition is Anton Corbijn’s Life, which examines the relationship between James Dean and Life Magazine photographer Dennis Stock whose portraits led to the iconization of the actor. Meanwhile, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 13 Minutes, about the resistance fighter who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller on November 8, 1939, debuted strongly today. Sony Pictures Classics acquired it earlier in the festival for both North and Latin America.
Back in the competition, there are still a handful of films to screen for Darren Aronofsky and his jury before they dig into serious deliberation. They include Sworn Virgin by Laura Bispuri and Chasuke’s Journey from Japan’s Sabu which wraps things up on Friday. Prizes will be announced on Saturday evening local time.