Berlinale Blog #5 Second best

Morten's biggest idol of the cinema
Morten's biggest idol of the cinema | Photo: Morten Vejlgaard Just

How settling for second best led to the very best: I got to meet a Coen brother.

Oh no! It’s a full house. I was so looking forward to the high point of the day, Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion. But getting here 15 minutes before the film starts was too late, not a single seat left. What now? Have to play it by ear. Over a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the press room I forge a new plan. What else is playing? Lo and behold, Steve Coogan’s in a new picture called Shepherds and Butchers. He was funny in The Trip 1 & 2, but this here is dead serious. Capital punishment, death by hanging in South Africa. Will that work? Is he up to it? The film starts in 15 minutes, I’ll chance it!

I manage to get hold of one of the last seats for Shepherds and Butchers. And, if it can’t be the very best, it turns out to be a grandiose second-best experience. Can the hanged man really to blame for his murders – or should we put the blame on the system? I mull these thoughts whilst exiting Cinema 7 of the Cinemaxx via the concrete back staircase. Descending right in front of me is a laid-back-looking curly-haired gentleman with grey beard stubble. Isn’t that …?!

It is! None other than half my biggest idol of the cinema: it’s Joel Coen, who opened this year’s Berlinale with his brother and their film Hail, Caesar! Joel has just been to a movie himself. Just like that, like the rest of us mere mortals. No bodyguards, no Hollywood. I simply must talk to him. For a moment there I completely forget that I’m a critical journalist. I’m his biggest fan! “Can I take your picture?” “No pictures, but I’d be glad to shake hands and have a chat,” he says. And that’s what we do. That’s how my second-best day became the very best of all.