From the opening film, Benoît Jacquot's Farewell, My Queen, to the magnificent tour-de-force performance by Nina Hoss (pictured) in her third film with Christian Petzold, Barbara, this year's Berlin Film Festival has been a festival of women. Hoss now looks set for second Silver Bear after winning the best actress gong in 2007 for Petzold's Yella. Barbara, which follows a doctor attempting to flee provincial East Germany for the West in 1980, is flying off the shelf like hotcakes, while an Australian deal for I, Anna, where Charlotte Rampling plays a disturbed mother and grandmother, is in the works as well. The latter film, directed and written by Rampling's real-life son, Barnaby Southcombe, was surely a poignant experience for the 66-year-old Rampling, who still has what it takes in every department—talent, looks and yes, great legs.
In Berlin, Angelina Jolie was in a less leggy mode than usual as she presented her directing debut, the Bosnian War drama In the Land of Blood and Honey. She clearly hopes her film will fare better in Europe after it failed to attract audiences in America. To the Hollywood star's credit, she took any criticisms of the film being one-sided from Serbian journalists head-on. Though, as in the US, she allowed her huge cast of largely unknown local actors to babble on at the film's press conference rather than talk too much about the film herself.
If a little simplistic in a Hollywood kind of way, Jolie's handsomely shot film (by Australian cinematographer Dean Semler) shows that Jolie possesses an assured hand in putting together a complex action movie/love story. The good-looking leads, Goran Kostic (who resembles Daniel Craig) and Zana Marjanovic, recall the roles played by Rampling and Dirk Bogarde in The Night Porter, even if Marjanovic smiles a little too much.
While not a film to reach far beyond the festival circuit in Australia, Julian Pölsler's The Wall was worth seeing in Berlin just to witness yet another wonderfully natural performance from Martina Gedeck (The Lives of Others, The Baader Meinhof Complex). The setting is alpine Austria where Gedeck is stranded behind a mysterious invisible wall with only her dog (and other animals she eventually befriends) for company. Why did this happen, or more importantly how does she survive? A female Robinson Crusoe tale based on Marlen Haushofer's bestseller, The Wall provides the kind of role actors dream of. For Australians who rarely get to glimpse such a pristine alpine environment, the cinematography is breathtaking. And that doggie is mighty cute too.