The 73rd and largest film festival in the world, Berlin, this year seemed to be centered on unconventional love and violence.
The Berlinale broke down barriers, from Sean Penn's passionate stance on the conflict in Ukraine to the pursuit of sexual liberation.
The following five points should be noted.
Superpower, a film by Sean Penn about the war in Ukraine, had its world premiere, and I happened to be there by pure chance. The movie was shown in a music venue off the festival grounds. Both Claudia Roth, Germany's Minister of Culture, and Penn, who appeared to be frail and to be visibly moved, were present.
Prior to the movie starting, when nothing new is revealed, I thought I had won the lottery. There were other critics who laughed at its elementary strategy. Most of the time, Penn is pictured smoking and drinking. At one point, a government representative conducts an interview through a curtain of e-cigarette vapour.
A journalist referred to the movie as a love story, and that is exactly what it is.
According to Penn, "meeting [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky was like meeting my children at birth.".
Hugo Emmerzael, a critic, stated that "the movie gives a lot of food for thought.". Why did he "Penn" make it, why is it showing at the Berlinale, and why do we have this morbid curiosity to watch it when there were so many other excellent movies we could have seen instead?
Apart from a few exchanges in a made-up language without any subtitles, The Survival of Kindness is an Australian silent film. It was shown to festival attendees who were wide-eyed at 9:00.
Beginning with a black woman in a cage by herself in the middle of the desert, played by Mwajemi Hussein. She manages to get away, but she must endure more agony for the next agonizing hour and a half before going back to her cage to perish.
An allegory of racism, Rolf de Heer, a white man, directed the movie. A journalist called it "a masterpiece" during the press conference.
When questioned about the fact that Hussein's character never consumes food or beverages and always travels barefoot, Hussein responded, "People who are minimized or discriminated against also wonder why people in power don't see how we are suffering.
I arrived from a location where I was barefoot. If you don't have any other options, it's neither a big deal nor a problem. ".
A film that captures the troubled spirit of America today is Manodrome, a compelling story on toxic masculinity and cult dynamics.
It places us in the shoes of Ralphie, a young man who is about to become a father but has money issues and feels no one respects him. Ralphie is played by Jesse Eisenberg, and the story is set in a snowy, dark New York City. As soon as he joins a cult run by a charismatic father figure played by Adrien Brody, things start to go wrong.
In order to make this movie, South African director John Trengove researched the manosphere, a misogynistic online forum that explores what he calls "a world of men that blurs the lines between camaraderie and sexuality.".
We might question whether the movie shows too much compassion for a violent movement while trying to understand Ralphie, who himself has experienced trauma.
The process by which radical ideology enters the mainstream interested me in part. And we frequently observe this in American politics," adds Trengove.
The movie moves along at a good clip, but I had to leave before it ended to get to a meeting. A critic responded when I later questioned how it concluded, "Very sadly, I was awake and had to watch it. ".
In two of the competing films, complex relationships between women and sometimes violent men are examined. Both have unusually long titles, are set 30 years apart, and are in German.
Emily Atef's novel Someday We'll Tell Each Other Everything centers on Maria, a 19-year-old who develops feelings for the 40-year-old farmer who is her boyfriend's next-door neighbor and "knows how to handle horses and women.". It is the summertime, and we are in East Germany immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta's film Ingeborg Bachmann: Journey into the Desert examines the tortured romance between the Austrian poet and Max Frisch, who comes off as a tyrannical partner and a writer with vampire tendencies. His wife serves as inspiration for his writing.
Ingeborg starts to see a frightening dog named Max in her nightmares after they break up. After a thrilling trip to the desert, she eventually heals.
However, it is difficult to forget the trauma the two protagonists went through and the fact that we are still debating this issue 30 years later despite the fact that both movies celebrate the sexual liberation of women.
Belgian director Bas Devos, whose film Here is a true gem, stated that "In the 21st Century, we are all homo distractus.".
Even when we are watching a movie in a dark theater, we are never truly there because our phones are constantly buzzing and buzzing, demanding our attention. But occasionally, it does happen that you become acutely conscious of where you are and that something real is taking place. You click with someone. ".
In his movie, Stefan, a young, good-looking, and sensitive Romanian construction worker who always wears shorts, meets Shuxiu, a Chinese PhD candidate from the second generation who works as an assistant in a small restaurant while conducting scientific research on moss.
It's about all the little things in life that we overlook, like the mosses Shuxiu examines under her microscope or the delectable soup Stefan makes with leftover vegetables for his friends and family.
Nothing traumatic occurs. It is a slow movie that strangely gives you energy and makes you believe again in human connections.
Devos claimed that after learning more about the Romanian population in Brussels, "I started to understand the danger of making something that would be a film about migration. That movie is not going to be made by me. But I'm hoping I can be the one to direct a movie about a man with leftover vegetables in the fridge. ".
In that regard, it is comparable to the romantic and significantly more dramatic Past Life, a multi-decade love story about people who left their country, directed by Korean filmmaker Celine Song. Past Life was an instant hit at festivals. In both movies, we are urged to live in the moment, take pleasure in it, and let go of regrets.