Thoughts From Berlinale

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600 Miles (Gabriel Ripstein. 2015)

It wants to be an intelligent thriller looking at human morality. It comes painfully close.

It’s tense, brooding and unstable, climaxing in sporadic and unnerving scenes of violence. Michael Haneke’s Hidden comes to mind as a similar film, creating a similar tone and provoking similar reactions to intense violence.

However, director Gabriel Ripstein never quite reaches the levels of shock that “Hidden” creates – not just because no one slits their throat. Ultimately it probably deserves a little more punch to its climactic ending and a little more menace to the events leading up to it. It needs a little more grit. Although Tim Roth’s ATF character is wonderfully icy and uninterpretable, 600 Miles feels a bit too clean. It needs more mess and more clutter.

 

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El Incendio (Juan Schnitman. 2015)

 Some middle class Englishman at  the screening I was at asked the director whether it was meant to be a study of a third world developing country, claiming it seemed the characters were trapped in a backward and unstable country. Rightly so, director Juan Schnitman told him he thought Argentina is lovely and the intention of the film was not to make a bold statement about Argentina’s politics or social problems.

 Middle class Englishman’s understanding annoyed me a little bit. He missed the point of the film completely. It’s a powerfully intimate, compact study of two people in a relationship which is faltering. The acting is heartfelt, the characters are painfully real and the dialogue is incredibly intelligent, offering some shatteringly upsetting moments to the audience. It’s about how humans interact with each other, how we fall in love, how we fall out of love and how we don’t quite know what love actually is.

 Just because it’s set in a foreign country doesn’t mean it’s automatically a film about corruption and inequality.

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Mr Holmes (Bill Condon. 2015)

 A great role for Ian Mckellen. A wise, theatrical, intelligent but flawed character. He acts it with great presence as well, playing Sherlock Holmes in his twilight years as a forgetful and slightly broken shadow of the man he was.

 Yet something lets this film down. It’s a little too pedestrian, too complacent. It’s as if Mr Holmes would be more at home as one part drama on BBC 4. Frankly, with the theatricality of the Holmes role, I was a bit disappointed not to see even one long monologue on life, death, morality and whatnot.

 There is a pleasantness to Mr Holmes though. There’s a sense of charm to the incredibly English setting and the relationship between a young maid’s son  and Holmes is a sweet one. Slightly reminiscent of Goodnight Mr Tom. Slightly.

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