Berlinale Competition: Favolacce, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, El Prófugo, Le Sel Des Larmes, And More

Justin Korovkin, Giulia Melillo Favolacce | Bad Tales von Fabio & Damiano D’Innocenzo ITA, CHE 2020, Wettbewerb © Pepito Produzioni, Amka Film Production

Summer in the suburbs of Rome. Families gather together for dinner, go to the beach, or just do nothing at all. Everything seems a bit dismal for the children who are not at all respected by their parents. Some of them have to show all their A grades in their certificates. As if that warrants their sheer existence. The brothers Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo paint a very somber picture in “Favolacce (Bad Tales)”, one of the children gets beat up by his father in front of his crying sister so in the end, it almost seems inevitable that some of them don’t see any other way out than to kill themselves.

French director Philippe Garrel premiered his new film “Le Sel Des Larmes” (“The Salt Of Tears”) at this year’s Competition. Luc (Logann Antuofermo) comes to Paris for work, leaving his life in the countryside behind. He’s out for amorous adventures and dates three girls during his stay in Paris and back. Supposedly trying to show love’s suffering and forlornness, I never had the feeling that this story worked simply because there wasn’t any attractive characteristic to Luc’s personality, let alone his physics. So there I was sitting in the movie for about 100 minutes thinking about the reasons why the girls had even started to fall for him.

Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning The Roads Not Taken by Sally Potter GBR 2020, Wettbewerb © Adventure Pictures

So what about Sally Potter‘s new one, “The Roads Not Taken”? After all, she comes up with a star-studded cast with Javier Bardem, Salma Hayek, and Elle Fanning. Javier plays Leo who suffers from dementia and keeps on living in the past, thinking about his former wife and if it would have been better to stay with her instead of re-marrying. But he can’t really communicate with his daughter Molly (Elle Fanning) who is trying to cope with everyday things like bringing her dad to the dentist or buying a pair of new trousers. Bardem’s impersonation is really praiseworthy and convincing and there is this wonderful scene at the end of the movie where Molly leaves her father alone in his room while at the same time staying with him. A strong contender for a prize this year.

I wasn’t really convinced of “El Prófugo” by Argentinian director Natalia Meta. There is Inés, played by Érica Rivas, also suffering from an illness but in this case it is insomnia. Plus she has nightmares and you sometimes don’t really know if she’s dreaming or not. During the course of the film, her state of mind becomes more and more paranoid and schizophrenic, but never really gets the idea across that there might be something else, something more than we actually see and feel and realize. In the studio where she is working on overdubs, it appears that there is something more than her voice in the recordings she does and these intruders are only trying to take hold of her body, mind, and soul. Or so she thinks.

Sidney Flanigan Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman USA 2020, Wettbewerb © 2019 Courtesy of Focus Features

There is much more narration and a thread to Eliza Hittman‘s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” about 17-year old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) who unintentionally gets pregnant and faces the reality of the rights and regulations in Philadelphia, where abortions can only be made with the consignment of the parents. So she travels to New York, with her cousin, to get this done. There is this pivotal scene in the mostly unagitated movie where she is being questioned by a counsellor and where she simply has to answer the questions with “never, rarely, sometimes, or always”. That’s where you sense and see that her pregnancy was/is a very heavy burden and that it is much more fatal to her than expected. After all, Autumn seems to be a pretty tough, that’s-the-way-it-is kind of person. Sidney Flanigan does an amazing job here.

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