Berlinale Bloggers 2020
Dark pictures, dark stories
Three films in this year’s competition, “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, “Undine” and “Schwesterlein”, are set in Berlin. They’re about crime, love and death.
Why not open the Berlinale with Burhan Qurbani's Berlin Alexanderplatz? This remake has stirred up huge expectations, but the festival’s new artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, has picked another opener instead, perhaps to put a slight damper on local patriotism.
Berlin looms large in no fewer than three of the 18 films in competition this year – especially in the new, eagerly-awaited adaptation of Alfred Döblin's 1929 novel. Qurbani, who also made We Are Young, We Are Strong (2015), transplants the story to the present day and age. Francis, a young African refugee, serves as a modern-day avatar of the novel’s original protagonist, Franz Biberkopf. After narrowly escaping death at sea, Francis swears an oath to God to change his ways and become a better man. But as an illegal refugee in Berlin he gets sucked into a maelstrom of underworld crime and cruelty, and finds himself adrift in troubled waters once again. Rainer Werner Fassbinder's legendary 1980 TV series was faulted for being too dark – literally so dark, in fact, that one couldn’t even make out some of the images on the screen. Judging from the first impressions of the latest remake, it looks as though we’re in for a similarly dark visual experience.