Berlin - Day Two (2018)

Today was a pretty intensive day of back-to-back screenings with no breaks, meaning I made the mistake of not eating or drinking anything until 5:30pm, when I gobbled down some fast food and nearly passed out in a boiling hot cinema. On the phone, my mum’s answer to this dietary carelessness was to carry Mars bars with me throughout the festival. I had fun with this later by relaying this brilliant piece of '70s parenting to my wife, who is currently training as a nutritionist and will be living on quinoa and apricots while I’m away.

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The Kindergarten Teacher 

It was several hours after seeing this English language remake of the same-named 2014 Israeli drama that I realised I’d seen the original, possibly in the haze of Cannes or at the London Film Festival, as it didn’t get the release it deserved in the UK.

Approaching an American remake of a foreign language arthouse film is bit like walking a fraying rope bridge (don’t look down for fear of falling into the abyss of Old Boy or City of Angels); but Sara Colangelo’s adaptation is adroitly handled, having already snaffled a directing prize out of Sundance and a five-star review in The Guardian.

It’s an ethical gut-twister, the tale of a nursery school teacher who sees in a prodigious 5-year-old poet the opportunity to make good on the artistic failings of both herself and her children. As her growing infatuation in the young pupil and his talent grows, so does your discomfit at her increasingly reckless and inappropriate behaviour.

In the lead role Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the overcarer to perfection, juggling the audience’s pathos and apprehension like a skilled circus performer. It’s her most impactful cinema performance since Secretary and a well-deserved continuation of her recent critically acclaimed TV work in The Deuce and The Honourable Woman.

Transit

The experience of attending the world premiere of Transit tonight left me breathless - although mainly because of the five stories I walked up to get to my seat.

German director Christian Petzold is best known in the UK for the Berlinale Silver Bear winner Barbara (2012) and for Phoenix (2014), but his latest is a “plain clothes” holocaust thriller that brilliantly defies convention. It’s based loosely on the World War 2 novel written by Anna Seghers in 1944, but Petzold’s script transposes the action to contemporary Marseille, giving it a pointed relevance given the present-day immigration crisis and concerns about the rise of the European far right.

During an intensifying and little-explained fascist occupation of France, Franz Rogowski (last seen in Happy End, now playing on Curzon Home Cinema) plays a desperate political refugee seeking to evade capture and navigate a complex bureaucracy of visas to exile overseas. His plan to assume the identity of a dead famous writer runs into romantic and moral complications in the French port, where the deceased’s wife (Paula Beer, Francois Ozon’s Frantz) is searching for him. Transit is a thoughtful, original and gripping piece of work that you should look at for when it’s released in the UK later this year.

Jon Wood