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domingo, 21 de febrero de 2016

Berlinale 2016 (2)

Day 2

Our Day 2 at the Berlinale started as it did the previous day: with a light breakfast mainly consisting of a ton of eggs, bacon and red beans. Oh, and bread, fruit, get the idea.

This time we had no time to spare, since the first movie we wanted to see, War on Everyone, started at 12:30, and we planned to be on the theater at least one hour before.

The line for the box office was pretty long by the time we arrived, but after all the strange things that happened on Day 1 ( we just were not going to assume anything.

Our hopes dried out quickly though, since after just a few minutes we were told that there were not tickets left. War on Everyone was the movie on top of my list, so I was a bit disappointed. At least there were two more movies we wanted to see that day, so without time to complain we headed towards a theater nearby to buy the tickets for L'Avenir (Things to Come), the French nominee for the Golden Bear.

The line was pretty short, but that was only because the box office was not opening until two hours later. Waiting outdoors in Berlin during winter is no fun, and since we were only five minutes away from Brandenburg Gate we did not hesitate and decided for some sightseeing instead.

Weather was great, with blue skies and no clouds, one of those days that make Berlin one of the most popular cities in Europe. Five minutes after being surrounded by hundreds of people we were in Tiergarten, a gorgeous park in the way to some of Berlin most famous tourist spots.

After the park walk around and the visit to the tourist spots in the area, we headed back to the starting point about half an hour before the doors opened. Things had not changed during our time out, and it was still winter in Berlin, but some hot coffee helped make it through. We stood there for about two hours before being told, again, that the tickets had been sold out, and the doors would open one hour before the movie for the last time.

It was 4 pm and we still hadn't get a ticket for any of the three movies we wanted to see that day. Things were looking grim but, on the positive side, we were pretty hungry, so we headed to the same Italian place from the previous day, this time to get a pizza.

As my trip companion put it, we were already committed in the ticket plan (a metaphor from poker, meaning we had already invested too much time to give up now-and do something else instead), so one hour earlier we were, once again, waiting on the line. After 30 minutes we were told some promising news: due to last minute cancellations, there would be about 60 tickets available. We started counting how many people there were in front of us...and it was only about 40, yuhuuuuu!I In the middle of our celebrations someone wisely pointed out that each person could buy up to two tickets, so it wasn't a done deal just yet. But there is some justice in the universe, and after only FIVE HOURS we finally got our tickets!!!

The excitement was double, since we realized that the movie was a worldwide premier that would be screened on the Berlinale Palast, the biggest theater in the Berlinale. So we got to walk along the same red carpet where the movie crew was being photographed and interviewed by millions of journalists. It was as if all those people had gathered to cheer and take pictures of us, the brave heroes from Spain who had stoically waited for hours in order to get an entrance!

Already inside all-red the theater, we found out we were pretty underdressed for the occasion, but the excitement prevented us from caring much. The music was playing, the actors arrived and seated within us mortals, people were cheering and the show host started introducing the three different languages! Here another Berlinale-awkward -moment took place, and when she was introducing the movie in German he messed up a little bit. As we know from the previous day, the Berlin audience is ruthless, and a big proportion of the spectators started laughing. This I did not like. Come on, there you have a super professional host introducing the movie at the speed of light consecutively in German, English and French. The mistake was actually a tiny one, and quite meaningless in my opinion, since I'm sure 80 plus percent of the German audience could understand English anyway. This is what she said (in German):

"L'Avenir is a French production co-produced with France".

She meant Germany when she said "France", and everyone found out about the mistake since she said it well right afterwards when translating to English. So people started laughing and she, not realizing the mistake, got visibly annoyed, to the point where she asked the audience why they were laughing.  

After this uncomfortable moment the curtains were drawn, the light turned off and the movie started.


L'Avenir (Things to Come) tells the story about a philosophy teacher who, --SPOILER ALERT--, in the period of one year, suffers different changes in her life, from being turned down on a couple of projects from a publishing house, to being divorced and facing her mother death.

I read (in Wikipedia, of course) that the director, Mia Hansen-Løve, is child of two philosophy teachers, and you can really tell from the plot. Apart from the interesting conversations, I also thought that the rhythm of the movie was swift, the dialogues well written and the characters  interesting enough.

The main protagonist, Isabelle Huppert, is a very popular French actress I had seen in another movie a few years ago. I liked her acting a lot and will try to watch more of her in the future.


After L'Avenir ended there were only 30 minutes left before the last movie of the day started, and it was quite a stretch from where we were. Still, it was only 9pm and our last day in Berlin, so we decided to give it a try.

Running for our lives we arrived at the theater 10 minutes after the scheduled time and, oh surprise, there were no tickets available. I asked the door man if he did not mind we sat on the floor, but he did not like the idea very much. The movie, Midnight Special, was the most commercial of all the ones we wanted to see, and most of its protagonists are all well known Hollywood stars: Michal Shannon (the bad guy form the last Superman movie), the beautiful Spiderman's girlfriend Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and the ugliest super villain of all times, Adam Driver, the bad guy in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

So, there we were, at almost 10pm in a small theater in the middle of nowhere, begging the doorman to let us in. As I said in my previous entry, strange things happens at the Berlinale, and another guy from the theater overheard us, and asked us very seriously if we had tickets. But he was one of the good guys, and he ordered us to follow him inside the theater, where he pointed and some free seats in the front row.

We got to see a last movie AND we did not have to pay (or wait in the line for hours) for it. I love happy endings.

The movie was more or less what we expected, very entertaining but nothing extraordinary. I really liked the actors, but the plot was kind of thin, and pretty much nothing happens during the last twenty minutes.

We headed to the hotel with an impression of "mission accomplished" (it's funny that we felt so happy and all we had done is watch couple movies), and the only problem now was that after so much going on we had forgot to have dinner, something unforgivable for a true Spaniard.

To make things perfect, we found a super tiny Vietnamese restaurant in front of our hotel that actually looked like a liquor store which happened to be open at 12am, and for only 5 euro I had the best coconut rice with chicken I've had in a long time.

The magic of Berlin.


One more thing:

-We encountered lots of errors in the subtitles of the first movie, I, Olga Hepnarova (writing was written writting, sneak, sneek, etc). Also, the English summary of the movies found in the online program was awful, both because of grammar mistakes and because often times they just made no sense. Very sad to see these things happen in one of the biggest movie festivals in Europe.

lunes, 15 de febrero de 2016

Berlinale 2016 (1)

Day 1

This year has been the second time I've attended The Berlin International Film Festival or Berlinale. Last time it was 2007, when lived in Berlin as an exchange student.

It has been a blazing experience. Berlin is just so much fun to visit, and when you add an open to the public movie festival to the equation, then little can go wrong.

Things actually started kind of tense, since we were supposed to buy tickets online before flying, but they were over before we could get our hands on them. But then I remembered that it was pretty easy for me to buy them on-site eight years ago, so we were not too worried.

The first day we wanted to see two movies, a documentary called Homo Sapiens and the Czech movie in competition, I, Olga Hepnarova.

The first movie only started at 7pm, so we walked for a while around The Berlin Wall before going to the main ticket venue, Postdamer Platz, where you could buy tickets for any movie (the other solution was going to the individual venues for each movie). We lined up for about half an hour before being told that no tickets were left, but may be purchased later "at some point during the day".

We found out during the weekend that many tickets are assigned to movie professionals, politicians, etc, that need to confirm attendance before certain time, otherwise the tickets are sold to the public. While that happened (hopefully) we headed towards  the venue of the first film, Homo Sapiens. We got there about 3pm just to find out that they would start selling around 5pm, so we had two hours to waste. We met there a rather eccentric guy who promised to keep the line for us as long as we would buy tickets for a movie we were not going to watch (you could only buy two tickets per person per movie). He also stared at us very seriously when saying that we had to pretend we were good friends, otherwise other people in the line would not allow him to keep us the position in the line. To this end he made sure we remembered each other's names before letting us go, :)

The cool thing about having a movie festival in a city like Berlin is that you are just surrounded by lot of cool places to see and we happened to be close to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (link) or the Protestant Church with a broken ceiling kept broken as a reminder of World War II. So we just went there and had a bite on the way, since we had not eaten anything since breakfast.

Two hours later our eccentric new friend was still the first on the line (he told us he had been there since 12pm!!!), but doors did not open for another hour, which we survived thanks to our now filled with food stomachs. At 6 o'clock, one hour before the start of the movie, we stormed inside the theater, but, oh surprise, there wasn't a single ticket available. After so much effort we did not even have a ticket to watch the documentary (which was not even part of Competition, or the group of movies that compete for prizes).

Our last chance was to wait for one more hour since someone could cancel their tickets last minute. 15 minutes before the start nothing had changed, but miracles (or dubiously strange things) happen in the capital of Germany, and all of a sudden tens of tickets went for sale, so our the effort paid off and we were finally going to watch one of the movies for the 2016 Berlin Movie Festival!

The movie (a documentary without dialogue picked by my trip companion) turned out to be just so so, but what really bothered us was that there were tons of free seats all over the theater.

Without time to do much complaining we rushed to Postdamer Platz (remember, the main Berlinale hotspot) to try to watch I, Olga Hepnarova, our last pick for the day. We had very little hope of getting a ticket though. What were our chances of getting a seat from the Competition section when it had taken us half day to get one for a Documentary with no dialogue?

As I said, strange things happen in these festivals (and they will get even stranger), so when we arrived to the super modern theater where the second movie of the day was showing we found that there was no one in the line and still plenty of tickets available. I bought the tickets, high fived my friend and headed to an Italian place I knew from my time as Erasmus student.

The movie, the Czech representative, tells the story of Olga, a woman who never connected with society partly because having being bullied by classmates and possibly because having been sexually abused by a family member (the movie only hinted at this).

--SPOILER ALERT--The protagonist is based on a real character who, in 1973, killed 7 pedestrians in Prague while driving a truck along the sidewalk. It was a premeditated action to address the evilness of society and its indifference towards bullying. She actually wrote a letter to the main local newspapers couple of days before committing the crime, which was essential for sentencing her to death:

"I am a loner. A destroyed woman. A woman destroyed by people... I have a choice - to kill myself or to kill others. I choose to revenge my haters. It would be too easy to leave this world as an unknown suicide. The society is too indifferent, rightly so. My verdict is: I, Olga Hepnarová, the victim of your bestiality, sentence you to death penalty"

I thought that for the most part the acting of the main protagonists was solid and the story was well told. There may have been a couple of loopholes, but possibly just on purpose.  The director implies on lot of things that may have happened to Olga so that we don't have an straight forward verdict on her actions, and this lead that on some occasions the spectator cannot really tell what is going on in the movie.

Still, I thought the movie was fine, and that is why what happened at the end of the movie left me completely shocked.

So, this is what happens. Inside the movie: the main protagonist, Olga, gets sentenced to death and the movie end. Kind of tough ending for not an easy movie to watch. Back in the theater, the real world: The movie ends and the curtains of the theater are drawn. This is when people are supposed to start clapping and/or cheering, right, especially during an event like this. Not in Delphi Filmpalast in Berlin. No one claps, no one cheers. In fact, there is not a single sound among the almost 700 people that fill the room. Extremely silence, like nothing I've seen before.
In my astonishment I don't clap either (I am new to this kind of events, so I would rather wait something does it before me).

It was a really uncomfortable moment, especially considering that people knew that the movie crew were among the public. Couple of minutes passed before the host approached the stage and timidly asked the audience if there was any question. Given the grim atmosphere the host was smart enough not to let more time pass by and, instead, started asking the director herself. After a while some people intervened, and I left the theater thinking what on earth had just happened...

Still, apart from that sad moment it had been an amazing day, and we headed to the hotel to rest before our second day at the Berlinale started.