Tickets have gone on sale on Monday and they're selling like hotcakes. If you want to buy online, click your way through the program, then all you need to do is breeze by the unwashed masses at Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, pretend you didn't just spend two hours trying to get into the system that ever so politely keeps telling you that it's offline right now ("Please try again"), nonchalantly wave credit card and order printout at a special booth, and "shazaam", you have your tickets. If you don't mind that the people in line might find you slightly snobby.
A few years ago, Dieter Kosslick extended the festival by a day in the form of the Berlinale Kinotag. Selected films from all sections, shown Feb 21, have been on sale since Monday and most of them are probably sold out by now. Let's say Kinotag is for wimps and control freaks. True cinephiles go for the actual premiers, preferably with Q&A afterward – some of them interminably boring, some of them a real delight – if you're lucky, you'll get stories of film reels brought into Tegel that morning or an in-depth discussion of the political situation in Palestine.
One of the highlights of my pre-screenings (and not part of the Kinotag) is a Japanese film, Kazoku X (Household X), which goes on sale tomorrow. A family with a tragic past – although we never learn what happened – is in the last stages of quietly falling apart. While mom is at home, obsessively cleaning when she's not binge-eating or stuffing her fridge with food that's then left to rot, dad is faced with a weird computer program at work that seems to have a message for him he can't figure out. Their son flits in and out of the house like a mouse, hardly ever seen. The three are really past all communication, until mom disappears, sparking a surprisingly spirited search, which ends ... pretty much in the same situation they've all been in before. Truly fascinating how director Yoshida Koki can keep these people interesting and can make an audience really care for them. Kazoku X premieres Feb 13, 20:30, at Arsenal 1, and if you buy any ticket on Thursday morning, that should be the one.
The second highlight of the previews was the Norwegian Fjellet (The Mountain): two women on a hike to the mountains in a last-ditch effort to save their relationship. Very slowly, the nature of their problems is revealed as they approach their destination. Almost documentary in tone as far as the dialogue is concerned, the film (typically Scandinavian, I'd say) presents wintry nature and snow as a form of healing, but not before some truly heartwrenching facts from the past come to light. Some tickets are still available for the Feb 20 screening in Friedrichstadtpalast, although the venue might simply be too big to truly enjoy it, but tickets for Fjellet's premiere at International (Feb 12, 20:00) go on sale today – don't let people take them away from you!
Okay, if you must ... Here are some Kinotag highlights:
A Forum film for the whole family, Submarine, a mix between Rushmore and the British comedy series The Inbetweeners, in which a teenager tries to achieve two goals in a short time – to get laid and to prevent his parents' marriage from breaking up. Oliver's too-smart monologues wouldn't have held my interest, but as soon as his parents, played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor, begin to take hold in the plot, the film becomes quite good. (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Feb 20, 11:00).
Make it a full day with The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Arsenal 1, 12:30), Marie Losier's excellent documentary about the world's pioneer pandrogyne couple, check out Brownian Movement, German Sandra Hüller's all-baring performance as a housewife with a double life – and it's consequences (Cinestar 8, 11:00) – or go for State of Violence, a moving action-drama in which South Africa's Apartheid past plays a pivotal role (Cinestar 8, 16:30).
Osmdesát Dopisu/Eighty Letters is an elegiac reminiscence of a boy following his mother around for a day as she is trying to effect their emigration from 1980s Czechoslovakia (Arsenal 1, 22:00). If the taboo love between a theater therapist and a prisoner is more your taste, Les mains libres/Free Hands will take you into a French prison (Arsenal 1, 18:00), but you could also follow the even more taboo infatuation of a high school student for his male swimming coach in Ausente/Absent (Cubix 7, 15:15).
Oh, and if you're one of those at-home online buyers – don't let appearances fool you. If a film is labelled "sold out," that merely means that the parcel of tickets that's set aside for onlines sales is sold out. There might actually be plenty of tickets left, you just have to go out of the house to get them.