For ten days from next Thursday (February 6th – 16th) the cinema world will descend on Berlin for the 64th Berlinale, one of the year’s most prestigious international film events, with hundreds of screenings of upcoming films from art house oddities to Hollywood blockbusters, and appearances by top names in cinema, with multiple academy award winner and Tarantino favourite Christoph Waltz, the American actress Greta Gerwig, and director Michael Gondry among those serving on the jury, deciding which films deserve the coveted Golden Bear award. The screenings, all open to the public and reasonably priced, take place at venues all over the city, including at the Zoo Palast, the famous West Berlin cinema located near to the Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm (which recently re-opened and we write about elsewhere on this blog). So, as well as keeping your eyes peeled for celebrities on the Ku’damm (and even in the lobby of our hotel), you might want to take the opportunity to get out of the cold and watch a premiere or two. Here is our pick of some of the highlights.
The Monuments Men
George Clooney’s latest film, which he stars in and directs, was filmed at Studio Balbelsberg in Potsdam, as well as in and around Berlin. It’s the real life story of a group of American GI’s sent to Berlin during the Second World War to rescue precious works of art threatened with destruction in the hands of the Nazis. No doubt the screenings will be packed with the hundreds of Berliners who were employed as extras on the film, hoping to catch a glimpse of their moment of glory. Expect Clooney himself to be in attendance – he can’t get enough of Berlin.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Another film made at Babelsberg last year, this is a quirky comedy about a hotel concierge from director Wes Anderson, who has virtually copywrighted his colourful, eccentric screwball style in films including The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. Bill Murray (who is also in the Monuments Men, and seemed to spend most of last year in Berlin) stars alongside Tilda Swinton, Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes. By all accounts the film is a wildly entertaining look at life in a top class hotel – a bit like the Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm, no doubt.
Acclaimed American director Richard Linklater’s bold three hour film documents the life of a boy from the age of 5 to 18. Filmed over a period of 12 years, it is an audacious experiment in capturing childhood on film, as the actor himself experiences it.
Danish director Lars Von Trier loves to shock, and not just with his films (he was thrown out of the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 for making provocative comments). But underneath all the controversy, he is a deeply serious film maker, and although this, ‘volume one’ of the depiction of the life of a female sex addict, has been raising eyebrows for its explicit sexual content, it is in fact a film with great heart and depth. The title character, Joe, is played by Von Trier regular Charlotte Gainsbourg and newcomer Stacy Martin (who plays Joe as a teenager).
La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast)
This new version of the fairy tale, from French director Christopher Gans, is closer to the original French classic directed by Jean Cocteau in 1945 (and also screening at the festival), rather than the spate of more recent adaptations of the famous story of a young woman held captive by a mysterious creature. This big budget fantasy, starring Léa Seydoux (from Blue is the Warmest Colour) and Vincent Cassell, was also filmed at Studio Babelsberg, suggesting that in the world of cinema, all roads lead to Berlin.
www.berlinale.de for festival programme, venue guide and online tickets.