Everyone has to pull the stool away. This is one of their tasks for Iranian military officers. And military service is mandatory in Iran. That pulling the stool away for the soldiers means executing an execution is the theme of Mohamad Rasoulof’s feature film “There Is No Evil”, which received the Golden Bear at the award ceremony of the 70th Berlinale on Saturday.
In four episodes, the film tells of the craft of killing, shows recruits plagued by remorse before or after the crime. In the beginning, he describes the everyday life of an executioner, without any idea of his profession. But already in the opening scene, Rasoulof staged the loading of a bag of rice into the trunk of a car so stealthily that the feeling of impending calamity crept up on you. One involuntarily wonders what was so discreetly weighed into the car – it could have been a body that was supposed to be removed from the way.
Rasoulof, an Iranian director who was absent, was honored with the Golden Bear exactly five years after Jafar Panahi, whose documentary “Taxi” was then in the Berlinale competition. Once again, Rasoulof, like Panahi before, is amazed that his film even made it to Berlin. The criticism of the regime’s adherence to the death penalty, which the film makes very vehemently clear at times, seems a clear case for the censorship. It was a miracle that he was still visible.
Instead of Mohamad Rasoulof – who later came to speak at the press conference by phone – his daughter Baran Rasoulof, who lives in Germany and takes part in an episode, accepted the award. The producer Farzak Pak then formulated what the work on the film meant for those involved. He thanked on behalf of “the actors and everyone else who risked their lives to be involved in the film.”
Drastic, not striking
Rasoulof’s film was a worthy contender among this year’s rivals. He was able to tell the explosiveness of his subject in precise, sometimes seemingly incidental, moral miniatures that were drastic, but drastic but not striking. Rewarding his courage was the right decision of the jury under its president Jeremy Irons. At the announcement of the Golden Bear, Irons pointed out that the jury had a heated argument. Your decisions are still largely understandable.
In addition to Rasoulof, there were well-known filmmakers who stood out positively. The Korean Hong Sangsoo in particular, most recently in 2017 with “On the Beach at Night Alone” in the Berlinale competition, impressed with “The Woman Who Ran”, which won the silver bear for the best director. He did this in particular through the fine, usual minimalist conversations of his protagonist with various friends who talk laconically but meaningfully about life plans and the questions about happiness with and without men. At the same time, he contributed one of the most beautiful animal scenes of the competition through the brilliantly structured appearance of a cat.
Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow”, a western about milk thieves, capitalism and male friendship in hostile surroundings, also circled around an animal, more precisely a cow, wonderfully condensed into a story from the early settlement of the western United States in the 19th century, The American film’s outcome may have had nothing to do with the fact that it wasn’t a world premiere. This also applies to her compatriot Eliza Hittman and her contribution “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, a concentrated portrait of a person who is not yet of legal age and who has become unwittingly pregnant.
Hittman’s poignant plea for the right to abortion, which was highly topical in the USA to the right, received the Silver Bear Grand Prize from the jury. Rightly, however, the long-term question is whether prices for films that do not have a world premiere at the Berlinale will do them any good.
In addition to Hittman, the jury awarded the twin brothers Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo two other younger filmmakers with a Silver Bear. The two 31-year-olds deservedly received the Silver Bear for the best screenplay for their stylishly oppressive, second feature film “Favolacce” about middle-class hell in a suburb of Rome.
As another Italian, Elio Germano, who was also seen in “Favolacce”, was delighted to receive a Silver Bear as the best actor. However, he received the award for the title role in Giorgio Diritti’s biopic “Volevo Nascondermi” via the outsider artist Antonio Ligabue. Elio Germano gave the physically and mentally impaired painter with a sensitive force that was unparalleled in the competition. The fact that Italy was strongly represented in the competition may not least be due to the new artistic director Carlo Chatrian.
Not all of the jury’s awards appeared to be mandatory. The French-Belgian digitization comedy “Effacer l’historique” by Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delepine, which was critical of the zeitgeist and flattened out, appeared more like an emergency solution for the Silver Bear – 70th Berlinale, which in turn was an emergency solution after the Alfred Bauer Prize in This year was canceled: In January, time had reported that the first Berlinale director Alfred Bauer held important positions in the Nazi film bureaucracy.
Many strong female figures
You can also discuss whether the Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic achievement directed at Jurgen Jures’ camera in Ilja Chrschanowski’s controversial film “DAU. Natasha ”had to be. The seemingly questionable conditions for the creation of the film, which included the accusation of manipulation and abuse of power, making this decision more than delicate. But aesthetically, after going through this very long two-hour journey through time to Stalinism, which offers excruciatingly detailed sex, a torture scene with the participation of a former KGB employee and a lot of drunkenness, you can ask if you can no longer afford the work with the price Gives meaning as it deserves.
On the other hand, you can look forward to Paula Beer’s Silver Bear for the best actress. Her main role in Christian Petzold’s “Undine” was one of the unobtrusive, brilliant achievements of this competition, which is rich in strong female figures. Her Undine alternates elastically between matter-of-factly cool when she explains Berlin city models as a historian and mysteriously dangerous when she demands unconditional love. It is a shame, however, that the other contribution from Germany, Burhan Qurbani’s clever new version of “Berlin Alexanderplatz” from the perspective of a migrant, went completely empty.
Pleasant films were of course also found in the sub-sections. In the panorama, for example, Bastian Gunther’s drama “One of These Days”, which, based on a real model, shows the madness of a “Hands on the truck” competition in the USA, in which people hold their hands on a vehicle for days. The one who holds out the longest wins. Gunther uses the humiliating competition in a provincial town as a magnifying glass to portray the fears and needs of the country’s lower social classes. Or the oppressively claustrophobic documentary “Saudi Runaway” by Susanne Regina Meures, in which Saudi Arabian protagonist Muna films herself with her cell phone as she prepares her to escape from the totalitarian state and puts it into practice during her honeymoon.
Big gain: “Encounters”
With “Victoria” by Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer and Isabelle Tollenaere, the forum included a wonderfully disorienting mixture of documentary observation and a film diary about California City, a city in California that mainly consists of sandy streets – a planning error in which the expected inhabitants failed to appear. The few who have moved into houses on the few paved paths can be seen doing their daily work in the desert. A quiet, memorable experience that was honored with the Caligari Film Award.
The new section “Encounters” brought a big gain this year. This parallel competition for headstrong filmmakers featured some of the festival’s finest films. These include Victor Kossakovsky’s documentary “Gunda” with pigs, chickens, and cows as protagonists. Even if the Russian filmmaker pursues a clear vegan concern, the artistically and amazingly direct black and white pictures are a sensation in themselves, because you experience the animals as figures. And with her second feature film “The Trouble With Being Born”, Austrian director Sandra Wollner contributed a clever and disturbing silent science fiction thriller without special effects, which dissected people’s desires all the more for this. The Encounters jury awarded the jury’s special prize for this.
Such approaches, which provide fresh views of the cinema, should make the Berlinale even more interesting in the future. With the still many (342) films, it is far from becoming a specialist festival for cinephiles. A good start.