The final days of the Berlin Film Festival have delivered two very different period dramas, one 18th Century Danish-language feature set in the court of King Christian VII, Nicolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair, which is very, very good and one much delayed Guy de Maupassant 19Th Century adaptation, Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod's Bel Ami, that is rather bad.
One might assume that the world's reigning box office king, Robert Pattinson, who can do no wrong in the Twilight movies and acquitted himself rather well in Water for Elephants, would be in the strong wonderfully romantic sweeping period drama. Yet that is not the case. It is in fact one very sexy Dane, Mads Mikkelsen, who (in the role of a German doctor) sweeps the queen (stunning newcomer Alicia Vykander) in A Royal Affair off of her feet, while the three more seasoned actresses in Bel Ami, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci are left running for cover.
No wonder Thurman and Scott Thomas were no-shows at the festival. (Ricci's television series, Pan Am has most likely been axed so she probably had nothing better to do, while Pattinson, who only attended the press conference, said he hoped to widen his audience from the young girls who were screaming outside. Still there's little chance anything will change for him with Bel Ami.)
Unfortunately neither of the antipodean stars travelled over for the New Zealand film, Two Little Boys, which the Hollywood Reporter cited as one of seven festival films to watch out for in Berlin's bustling market. The film screened in the Generations 14plus section, and after the festival's programmer introduced it as “a rough ride” and “very naughty”, Duncan Sarkies, who wrote the book on which the film is based (he co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Robert, who directs) was relaxed as he told the youthful crowd about the film and his two foul-mouthed characters : Nige, played by Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords and Deano, played by Hamish Blake from the Australian comedy duo Hamish & Andy.
The comic lads play childhood friends who have fallen out and come together over the disposal of a Norwegian soccer star called Juergen, who Nige has accidentally killed. Everything happens in a matter-of-fact manner, a trademark of the Wellington filmmaking gang, which also includes Taika Waititi, whose huge success Boy had played in the very same Berlin cinema two years earlier.
“We knew that we'd cast two comedians and Rob would reassure them it was definitely going to be funny but he also had to make sure that a dramatic tension was there,” Sarkies explains. “It was wonderful working with people with such great comic timing.”
McKenzie had been cast first and when he auditioned with Blake they clicked straight away. “It was a standard audition process,” Sarkies continues, “then we held workshops to make sure it was right. Ultimately I loved the commitment both of these guys threw into it because they are not so much known as actors really.”
Two Little Boys and Bel Ami will be released here via Hopscotch. A Royal Affair, which won two Berlin prizes (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard was awarded the best actor Silver Bear for his inventive portrayal as King Christian, while Arcel and his regular co-writer Rasmus Heisterberg won for best screenplay) will be distributed by Madman. Rialto has picked up Elektrick Children, a festival buzz title, which should provide the breakthrough of 18 year-old Julia Garner, who plays a character who believes she's experienced an immaculate conception and is based on the Virgin Mary. Palace Films has acquired the Golden Bear winner for best film, the Taviani brothers' Caesar Must Die, which follows a stage production in a maximum-security prison in Rome.