23 Apr 19
Marking veteran festival director Dieter Kosslick's final year heading up the Berlinale, this year's line up boasted a customarily idiosyncratic body of films in competition and sidebar. It was an arguably less controversial line-up of winners than last year. Nevertheless, the overall selection and programme reflected a typically uncompromising and bright future vision of World Cinema and Art House, even as some of the best titles skewed towards despair in both subject matter and aesthetic.
Some of the best films sat outside of Competition. In Rodd Rathjen's gripping thriller Buoyancy, a young Cambodian man is unwittingly forced into slavery on a Thai fishing boat. Lured by the promise of better pay and a steady job at sea, Chakra (a superb Sarm Heng) finds himself locked on board a ship and forced to work for no pay and at the mercy of a sadistic crew who think nothing of killing exhausted workers. Comparable in intensity and film style to Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire's Prayer Before Dawn, Buoyancy moved with breathtaking pace, restlessly gliding camerawork and pounding score, building to a violent and emotional crescendo. A remarkable debut feature that stood out in Panorama alongside Alejandro Landes' acclaimed Monos, fresh from the raves at Sundance.
Similarly gruelling was Fatih Akin's controversial competition entry The Golden Glove, an ultraviolent descent into hell with true-life serial killer Fritz Honka (Jonas Dassler). For those with the stomach, the film offered an uncompromising, elaborately set-designed and hyper-stylised riff on serial killer movie tropes, featuring some of the most astonishingly violent murder scenes committed to film. It was one of the most talked about films at the festival. But for many, the question rather remained, what was the point?
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