Movies of the Week #9 (2023)

This week, Berlinale recap!

Here (2023): At just 82 minutes, the movie is strikingly short. Especially if you get into its mood, it will lull you before you even realize it’s ending. We are so used to our urban jungles, that nature takes on ever more mystical qualities. In the world of Here, nature provides, in all its delicate simplicity. Ștefan Goța and Liyo Gong play their understated parts in this symphony and we feel immediately drawn to them, to join them. We are traveling back to the roots of our quintessential sense of connection, in an almost idealistic form of said conflict-less world. But it’s not really a world without conflict, rather one where it has temporarily ceased and made room for tenderness. Here is a moment in time, the proverbial here and now, which is the most blissful place to exist in. It’s mischievously elusive, of course, but Bas Devos somehow manages to capture its essence in this movie, that has all the chances of growing on you and showing you true North. Read the whole review here. 8

Passages (2023): This one is an exploration of a complicated and toxic story of love, belonging and self actualization, featuring three stand-out performances from its leads – Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw and Adèle Exarchopoulos. The movie transcends type and finds the truth in its relationships, it dotes on and suffers with its protagonists in a manner that feels intimate, both emotionally and physically. Sachs has congealed this inherently melodramatic story into one of stoic commitment to ourselves, of finding and cherishing our individuality, both within and outside of relationships. Read the whole review here. 8

Mammalia (2023): It’s enough to give the trailer for Mammalia a quick watch in order to get a sense of what an otherworldly experience it is going to be. This is Sebastian Mihailescu’s second feature and it highlights the Romanian director as a remarkable experimentalist. What is it really about? Variety called it a “gender satire”, which is a label, I guess. You do get a clear sense that it has something to do with our understanding of masculinity and patriarchal roles. It is bound to trigger, because it points to the fear of demasculinization. At the same time though, it feels like a voyeuristic exploration that isn’t rooted in ideology. As an ad agency would put it, it’s not cinema, it’s a feeling. You’d think this shouldn’t work, but it does, because the movie inhabits its idiosyncrasies. Whatever you might feel about what Mammalia means, it is first and foremost a visually enticing experience that commands your attention. Read the whole review here. 8

Sages-femmes (2023): The genre of medical movies is mostly populated with the struggles and romantic explorations of doctors and nurses, the two swathes of people we associate with it. Sages-femmes narrows that down to midwives and then applies a fairly stereotypical treatment to its story, but to very good effect. Léa Fehner’s movie is an ode to the dedication of this mostly female staff, that rises above chronic underfunding, being overworked and managing complex situations, both professionally and personally. Fehner indulges in dramatic excesses and only brushes against some of the endemic issues that are sadly common in the profession, which is another way of saying that this is a story that tries to find the silver lining(s). There’s nothing wrong with that and Sages-femmes makes for spirited and hopeful cinema. Read the whole review here. 8

Între revoluții (2023): As the title denotes, this movie by Vlad Petri is set between two revolutions – the one in Iran in 1979 and the one in Romania ten years later. Our struggle for change is a constant one, that slices through history horizontally and vertically – meaning, through society, but also between individuals. Între revoluţii (en. Between Revolutions) frames itself at this intersection, driven by archival footage of social shifts and an epistolary narrative between two (imaginary) friends. Perhaps it’s not a perfectly accomplished movie when all is said and done, but it proves its worth in relation to the tribulations of our recent demands for societal equity. Read the whole review here. 7