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February 18, 2012

Do you like this?

The Berlinale is drawing to a close and in the awards ceremony starting tonight at 19:00, the international jury headed by Mike Leigh will name the winner of this year’s Golden Bear for the best film in Competition. Having seen all of this year’s entries, here are some thoughts and predictions.

For me, three films clearly stood out – the Taviani brothers’ Cesare deve morire (Caesar Must Die), Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, and Bence Fliegauf’s Csak a szél (Just the Wind) – and I’d be happy to see any of these win the top prize.

The one that stands the best chance amongst them is probably Tabu. It’s a film that adopts and plays with various cinematic tropes as well as paying homage to great filmmakers from Murnau to Godard and its whimsical experimentalism seems to me like a good jury pleaser. If it doesn’t win the Golden Bear, it should certainly win the Alfred Bauer Prize, which is awarded to films that exhibit particular innovation, as it’s undeniably the most innovative film in competition this year.

What I'd really hate is for Christian Petzold’s Barbara to snatch the prize in their stead. This film has been the absolute critical favourite and while it’s certainly not a bad film, it left me somewhat cold. Its direction is solid, its acting very good, but ultimately, it’s easily forgettable. I felt the plot was uninspiring and the utter predictability of the love story further drained the strength out of its denouement, which was already overly dragged out and also relied on way too convenient a piece of timing for its culmination.

Yet again, in past years general critical reception hasn’t always proved a good pointer to the eventual winner, so I’m still hopeful.

A few films will certainly not win the Golden Bear. Chief amongst them is Antonio Chavarrías’ Dictado (Childish Games), which was just plain and incontrovertibly bad. It was really, really awful, in fact. Being the only screening I attended that didn't end with a single applause but a fair few boos, I’d be very surprised if there was any disagreement there.

I don’t think Matthias Glasner’s Gnade (Mercy) stands much of a chance either, though it definitely wasn’t anywhere near as terrible as Dictado. It had some breath-taking panorama shots of the Arctic landscape, the acting by its central couple was stellar, and before developing into the most jejune exploration of the concept of mercy imaginable, it did show promise.

And yet, whatever strengths it may have had, any prospects of winning the award were instantly obliterated by its closing shot: the camera zooms out, ending on a full shot of an iPhone with the film playing on the screen. Like, really? Nevermind that the iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook Pro had already featured in the film, it simply blows my mind that any self-respecting director would sacrifice – actually, sacrifice can imply consecration, let’s go with shit all over – the closing shot of their own film in this way. Well done, Glasner, you’ve set a new record for sheer lack of artistic integrity.

Anyway, that rant out of the way, I’m very eager to see what happens tonight. Let’s hope the best film wins (i.e. one of the three listed above)!

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February 18, 2012

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