Berlinale Special is a program you might compare to Toronto’s Gala Presentations—high profile movies a shade or two too populist for any other section of the festival. Screenings take place at swanky theaters far and away from Potsdamer Platz, the bustling center of most Berlinale activity.
Berlinale Special Galas at the Friedrichstadt-Palast
Simon Curtis’s Woman in Gold. With Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Daniel Brühl. World premiere. From Wikipedia: “The film is based on the true story of the late Maria Altmann, an elderly Holocaust survivor living in Los Angeles who, together with her young lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg, fought the government of Austria for almost a decade to reclaim Gustav Klimt‘s iconic painting of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was confiscated from her relatives by the Nazis in Vienna just prior to World War II.”
Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy. With John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti. European premiere. In September, the Los Angeles Times‘ Steven Zeitchik found it “a refreshing surprise to find Love & Mercy, a story about the pop icon Brian Wilson from two ends of his life, break the mold and even invigorate the [biopic] form. Written by Oren Moverman…, Love eschews the easy flashback or frame story in favor of a dual-tiered approach. One story line has us following a young Wilson (Paul Dano) in 1960s Southern California as he seeks to push the Beach Boys away from the surf-pop of their early years in more experimental direction, not exactly to the satisfaction of his bandmates. Creative genius and tensions with those close to him grow in tandem, and even as Wilson is making some of the best music of his life, that life is unraveling.”
Berlinale Special Gala at the Zoo Palast
Anton Corbijn’s Life. With Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton and Ben Kingsley. World premiere. Based on the friendship between Life photographer Dennis Stock (Pattison) and James Dean (DeHaan).
Berlinale Special Gala at the Kino International
Dagur Kári’s Virgin Mountain. With Gunnar Jónsson and Ilmur Kristjánsdottir. World premiere. From the director of Nói albinói (2003).
Berlinale Special Matinée at the Kino International
Mark Dornford-May’s Breathe Umphefumlo (La Bohème). With Pauline Malefane, Mandisi Dyantyis, Busisiwe Ngejane and Mhlekazi Mosiea. World premiere. An adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera.
Berlinale Special at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele
Ermanno Olmi’s Torneranno i prati (Greenery Will Bloom Again). With Claudio Santamaria, Alessandro Sperduti, Francesco Formichetti and Andrea Di Maria. German premiere. From Camillo de Marco at Cineuropa: “The winter of 1917, the North-East front, the final clashes of the Great War. An Italian stronghold situated at 1800 meters above sea level, on the Asiago plateau, described in the novels of Mario Rigoni Stern. It’s snowing everywhere; the Austrian trenches are so close that you can hear the enemy soldiers breathing. A hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, maestro Ermanno Olmi describes with Greenery Will Bloom Again his vision of a conflict that cost the lives of 16 million human beings, just as it was brought back to him by the memory of his father, called to arms at 19 years of age, to find himself within the bloodbath of Carso and Piave. A drama that scarred his youth and the rest of his life, just like millions of others.”
Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s documentary The Seventh Fire. World premiere. From the site: “A Native American gang leader is torn between his criminal lifestyle and loyalty to his tribe. Presented by Terrence Malick.”
Margarethe von Trotta‘s Die abhandene Welt (The Misplaced World). With Katja Riemann, Barbara Sukowa, Matthias Habich and Gunnar Moeller. World premiere. Paul (Habich) comes across a photo of the American opera singer Caterina Fabian (Sukowa) who looks uncannily like his late wife. His own life and that of his daughter (Riemann) are disrupted.