This year’s film festival Mannheim-Heidelberg was a celebration of otherness, (im)possible new beginnings, and pursuit of true human connections.
Ten festival days with 31 films made me see the world from many different perspectives and took me to journeys and places I hadn’t experienced before. Each and every film was worth watching for one reason or another, but there were some that left a lasting impression on me through their touching, intensely human presence. These are the films that moved me the most:
The images, the lack of motion, the voice – all of them so powerful that one almost feel captured in this time experiencing the horrendous events in the protagonist’s life. It’s so unusually intense despite the lack of motion and dialog that it leaves you speechless and thoughtful. How much atrocity can a human being bear? Where is the line between illusion and hope, and how much of that one needs to survive? These and many more questions will accompany you through the film and long after.
An amusing, sad, disturbing journey to being someone else for a short while which triggers a spiral of unexpected feelings and actions. Not the funny moments make this film so touching, but the way it brings to light vulnerability, and lets us experience the essence of being human from different perspectives without any trace of judgement. Who hasn’t thought of the possibility to escape the burden of past mistakes, unpleasant circumstances or violent expectations? One of the most moving films this year showing the simplicity and beauty of being human.
Not an easy film to watch, but one leaving a lasting impression. It’s not only about saying good-bye to a life the protagonist used to live or accepting the fact that the journey called life might be over very soon. It’s a full immersion of the way the 92-year old protagonist feels. The intensity of the experience is such that you almost sense what he thinks and wish that there could be an opportunity for him to re-gain his physical strength, his youth. Moving, thought-provoking, intense.
In addition to these three films, there is a number of others which I consider important to point out. While they were in very different settings and about various themes, they all had something in common: love as potential game-changer. The ingenuous and touching way of approaching the topic from different perspectives, the great acting, and human touch made these films very special. Special in uncovering new aspects of human connections. These are: “Patrick’s Day”, “The Sunfish”, “A Few Cubic Meters of Love”, “Nightfall in India”, “Der Goalie bin ig”.
Another eventful festival day went by with an unusual western in the Hungarian Puszta (“Mirage”), a taxi road trip in Paris (“Tricolarum”), and two other moving films which I feel the need to highlight: “Der Goalie bin ig” and “In the Crosswind”.
Films about “losers” are available aplenty and often depict a story using a slightly moralizing or pitiful undertone. Not so “Der Goalie bin ig”. I don’t even think this is a film about the loser Goalie. To me it was rather a story about losers… or more precisely put about people who have lost any sense of honesty, truth, and the ability to engage in ingenuous human connections. In a world of dishonesty friendship loses its meaning; lies and betrayal become the norm. A sad story or a celebration of ingenuousness? You’ll have the chance to decide for yourself if you watch it. You’ll also discover many more layers interweaved in this good Swiss story.
“In the Crosswind” was a very unusual, and intense film. Somehow it doesn’t even feel right to write about it. The words seem to diminish its strength of expression and extraordinary way of involving the audience in a terrifying journey. Nevertheless, I simply have to point it out here and now with the disclaimer that anything written about it can’t do justice to the cinematic experience. An experience of images, lack of motion combined with a female voice telling a story. All of this lets you immerse in the world of Erna and witness a human story of the horrifying cleansing of the Baltic countries in the 1940s. A story about love, hope, loss, betrayal, courage, survival, home… A must-see story.
The journeys on the first festival day were diverse and surprising. The wish to be(come) someone else was striking in all six films I saw today. A wish that is so familiar for who hasn’t wished to change, to become a different person, even if only for a day?
Olya and Sasha (“Name Me”), two 17-year old Russian girls, took the audience on a mission to find Olya’s father with the expectation for a change. What they found was unexpected, harsh, and poignant… Revealing the feeling of abandonment, as well as different aspects of today’s Russian society and mentality. While the latter is worth a longer, and possibly heated discussion, the good acting and the multi-layered narrative made the film worth watching.
“Amour Fou” let us peek into Heinrich von Kleist‘s thoughts, as well as in 19th-century Germany. Hard to believe what it was like two centuries ago, but it was very easy to believe Christian Friedel as Kleist.
“Nightfall in India” is not a road movie for me. It’s so much more than that. So much more than just a story about courage, love, truth… It’s a precious piece of cinema that accompanies you long after you saw it. A lesson of what it means to be human.
I have to admit that I was skeptical about “The Sunfish”. Deep-sea fishing, a fisherman, small village… it sounded like too ordinary a story. Boy, was I wrong! The sense of humor, authenticity, simpleness make the film a real journey through adversity, hope, the willingness for a new beginning. After all, we all need to believe it’s possible.
Have you ever thought how soothing the anonymity of a hotel can be? It’s a place where no one knows us, and thus no one expects us to be the way we have always been. It’s the perfect place to escape from a vicious circle of social expectations, and burdens. And that’s how, Erika, together with a number of people from her group therapy, see it in “Hotel” when they decide to be someone else, for a day or two. This turns to be amusing, sad, disturbing, and triggers a spiral of unexpected feelings and actions. Not the funny moments make this film so touching, but the way it brings to light vulnerability, and lets us experience the essence of being human from different perspectives without any trace of judgement. One of the most moving films this year.
A chock-full festival hall and an atmosphere of joyous anticipation. The beginning of the festival is always special – the opening speech as a real gate-opener to a 10-day film feast, the introduction of the opening film, the directors and actors excited to present their work…
All of this followed by grey cats (“All Cats Are Gray”) and love measured in cubic meters (“A Few Cubic Meters of Love”). But wait a minute…
The cats are actually not cats at all. Gray are parts of the past, some memories (or the lack thereof), and a young girl looking for truth.
The love measured in a few cubic meters turns out to be so grand that it overwhelms with its purity and impossibility… to the extent that in the end you feel like screaming with the trapped couple in a desperate attempt to help them and there is nothing else you wish for in this very moment, but to be touched by at least one small portion of a cubic meter of this kind of love.
My film adventures continue and will take me to many different places in the next days. And you might want to consider seeing these two film stories. They are well worth your time, energy, and thoughts.
I visited a dear friend earlier this year for a surprise celebration of her birthday. We hadn’t seen each other for ages and had a wonderful evening organized by her husband. Well aware of my fondness for the international film festival Mannheim-Heidelberg, she found the best way to convey the essence of it to her husband: “The film festival to Irina is what my birthday is to me”. Just like my friend, I look forward to this special event, meet preparations, talk about it often (and a lot!), enjoy, and share it.
My friends have heard me speak about the festival many months in advance, seen me check every day if the festival program is available (and complain if it still isn’t), been there when I plan my schedule so diligently that I get to see the maximum number of films possible, experienced my joy when I buy the tickets on the first day of the advance sale, and my excitement during the festival. It feels like celebration indeed! Celebrating storytelling, newcomer filmmakers, and an audience eager to be mesmerized in cinema debuts… And this year even the motto of the festival – Celebrating films – supports how I feel about it every year.
Last year it was a forum of very well told film stories – stories that moved me, made me think, discuss, wonder, question (you can find some of my impressions here and here and here). I am sure it will be no different this year. The human and authentic aspect of the selected films is what makes them simple and extraordinary at the same time. So simple and extraordinary that it often feels like they were created for one person only. When the light goes off and a film begins in the festival hall, I sit with a small notebook and a pencil on my lap that help me capture some impressions, the other film-goers seem to disappear and the magic of cinema starts…
I’ll share my impressions from long hours of film watching which are in store for me in the next two weeks and invite you to join me in a journey to unknown, exciting cinema destinations. Two days and counting…!