"We didn't start with the mirror; we started with the dogs"
- Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs Press Conference
The idea of cinema as a mirror for society came early at the Berlinale, during the press conference for Wes Anderson's new stop-motion animation film Isle of Dogs. When a German journalist inquired whether Anderson intended for the festival's opening film to function as a parable for our times, the American, in typically dry fashion, insisted that the impetus for his and co-writers Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman's story was the mutts, not the mirror.
Common themes emerged across the the spectrum of works from established directors and vibrant new talents at this year's Berlinale. These ostensibly topical subjects of the moment were gender, violence, death, redemption and vanishing ways of life: the latter chronicled exquisitely in filmmaker Kazuhiro Sôda's multi-layered and luminous portrait of the denizens of Ushimado, a tiny Japanese fishing town. Yet focus remained on the characters rather than the issues— a result, perhaps, of diverse and previously marginalized voices coming into the fold.
Paraguayan filmmaker Marcelo Martinessi's sublime first feature Las herederas (The Heiresses)— a delicate, honest portrait of middle-aged lesbian desire re-awakened— was a Competition standout, earning both the Alfred Bauer prize and Ana Brun a well-deserved Silver Bear for Best Actress. Indeed, a wealth of female-driven narratives screened across the festival's myriad sections, as did strong films from female directors such as Laura Bispuri, Josephine Decker, Ruth Beckermann, Pernille Fischer Christensen, Narjiss Nejjar, and Austrian newcomer Katharina Mückstein. Malgorzata Szumowska took home the Grand Jury Prize for Twarz (Mug), a humorous and soulful exploration of identity in contemporary Poland, while Romanian filmmaker Adina Pintilie's first narrative feature Touch Me Not won the Golden Bear.
If there's anything to learn after this year's Berlinale commenced with discussions of gender quotas and yet another #MeToo controversy, perhaps it's to just let art speak for itself.
Below are Filmatique's Top Films of Berlinale 2018:
Apatride, Narjiss Nejjar
Becoming Astrid, Pernille Fischer Christensen
Boys Cry, Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo
Central Airport THF, Karim Aïnouz
Die Tomorrow, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, Gus van Sant
Eldorado, Markus Imhoofs
Ex-Shaman, Luiz Bolognesi
Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine), Laura Bispuri
Grass, Hong Sang-soo
L'animale, Katharina Mückstein
La prière (The Prayer), Cédric Kahn
Las herederas (The Heiresses), Marcelo Martinessi
Madeline's Madeline, Josephine Decker
Minatomachi (Inland Sea), Kazuhiro Sôda
Museum, Alfonso Ruizpalacios
The Silence of Others, Almudena Carracedo & Robert Bahar
Styx, Wolfgang Fischer
Transit, Christian Petzold Twarz
Twarz (Mug), Malgorzata Szumowska
The Waldheim Waltz, Ruth Beckermann
Wild Relatives, Jumana Manna
Las herederas (The Heiresses), Marcelo Martinessi (2018)