The Berlin daily Tagesspiegel calls it the Iranian Berlinale. I call it slo-fest. Festival director Dieter Kosslick has been promoting slow food for years, now his films are finally catching up with him. For a while in the beginning, I thought that they had set the projector at the wrong speed when they were showing the competition film The Future. Then I remembered seeing director and featured actress Miranda July in another film, where she was speaking exactly at the same slowed-down tempo.
The film picks up speed exactly once, when Jason rips his headphones – through which he's been helping customers with their computer problems – off his head and apart in a gesture of defiance. But that's a singular moment I was beginning to look back on with nostalgia very soon. For some reason, everyone speaks very slowly, even the injured cat, the narrator of the film, voiced by Miranda July. I always thought that if cats could speak, it would be pretty fast. Clearly I was wrong.
It's partly my fault, I'm afraid. The two films I recommended most highly from my pre-Berlinale screenings were not exactly of the Formula 1-kind: the microdrama Fjellet, which proceeds exactly as fast as two women with heavy backpacks, and the Japanese post-meltdown family in Household X, which contains about 12 lines of dialogue and otherwise a lot of silence and still shots. Apparently, Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse, which I missed yesterday, proves my point about the slow motion Berlinale.
I did finally get my kick today, though. The Norwegian kids film The Liverpool Goalie is a well-written story, imaginative, funny, moving, well-acted. Jo, the protagonist, has not only recently lost his father to a freak accident and is now convinced that you can't be too careful in life, but he's also being bullied in school by the tough kid, Tom Erik, who's not too bright and needs someone to do his homework.
The appearance of a new classmate, the self-assured Mari, a math wiz and soccer player, quickly makes him see things in a new light, simply by being there. But it's not that easy to shake off Tom Erik, and in the meantime, everyone around Jo, including his mother and his best friend, have their own problems to deal with.
As I watched it together at Haus der Kulturen der Welt with about 1.000 kids who laughed and applauded and completely forgot the teachers who were with them, I was reminded that this is what it's all about. Not sitting in a theater where people laugh at a joke just to prove that they got it even though they didn't. Or watch paint dry for hours and don't dare leave and say that this just wasn't for them and they don't care that it's a famous director with an iconic but rarely-seen oeuvre.
Those kids were with the film from the get-go, rooting for their hero, getting jokes at breathtaking speed (they were laughing at the nudie magazines spilling from the bully's closet before I could even see that they were), and roaring with applause at the end when everyone finally gets what they deserve. So take your kids, gather your godchildren, or pretend you have to be there for some other reason, just make sure you catch The Liverpool Goalie.