The past is a dream in this bittersweet tale of a writer adrift in Brezhnev’s USSR. An elegiac journey into a luminously hazy Leningrad, Aleksey German Jr’s new film Dovlatov follows the life of the now celebrated writer Sergei Dovlatov over six days in 1971, as he struggles to get published.
What short film manages to win 82 awards and get invited to over a hundred film festivals? The remarkable Silent River, by writer-director Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu, achieved that feat back in 2011. Her 2005 short film Bucuresti-Berlin had been an early sign of a promising career. Lǎzǎrescu studied in Munich, and started out as a documentary filmmaker. Her documentary film The Secret of Deva won Best German Newcomer Film in 2007. Since then, Lǎzǎrescu has gone from strength to strength.
Completed just a few days before its festival launch, The Heiresses was probably the best film at the 2018 Berlinale – and one that inspired both affection and a high degree of esteem. It won the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear and the FIPRESCI prize, alongside the Silver Bear for Best Actress awarded to Anna Brun for her nuanced portrait of a woman finding grace as she falls.
A cheerfully iconoclastic film, Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable has provoked both ire and delight. Jean-Luc Godard is considered such a key figure in both European culture and political history that to treat him with levity is outrageous to some, and just deserts to others. Hazanavicius has said that critical responses have, at times, been as if he’d peed on the Sistine Chapel.
Western, Valeska Grisebach’s latest work, was met with significant critical acclaim when it screened at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last May. It’s a memorable film. It digs deep without seeming to. Grisebach is based in Berlin, and we met there earlier this year, to discuss her work.
A half-forgotten but important episode in British history is given a new perspective in ‘Theatre of War’, an absorbing new film by Argentinian artist Lola Arias.
Walk With Me carries within its heart a quiet note of brotherly love. When filmmaker Max Pugh’s brother became a Buddhist monk, over ten years ago, Pugh attended the ordination. It left a profound impression on him. Years later, Pugh and fellow filmmaker Marc J. Francis were invited to make a documentary about the community his brother had joined, Plum Village. The village is a Zen Buddhist community and meditation centre, founded by the Vietnamese poet and spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, and his monastic disciple Sister Chan Khong.
Joachim Trier’s latest film Thelma, made with his long-term collaborators, writer Eskil Vogt, cinematographer Jakob Ihre and composer Ola Fløttum, marks a new development in the director’s career. His usual powerful existential themes remain, but Thelma represents a departure in other ways, perhaps presaged by Trier’s previous work, Louder than Bombs (2015), which had starred Isabelle Huppert.