The opening movie of the Berlinale film festival, the Arctic drama “Nobody Wants the Night,” tells a bleak tale of people fighting to master nature – and losing the battle.
It is a tale of a woman who loves an explorer who prefers the frozen wastelands to home life and is obsessed with finding the North Pole. She pursues him into the icy desolation of Greenland, where she finds another person who loves him – an Inuit who is expecting his child.
It is the beginning of a journey – beyond the geographical kind.
Josephine Peary, the character played by Juliette Binoche, said discovery is the greatest glory of mankind.
It makes no sense to the Inuit woman. “Why would you go somewhere else if you already have everything?” she said.
The film plots the limits of discovery, of possession and ownership and explores the nature of love. Chewing on raw seal and burning her furniture in the struggle to survive, Ms. Peary is forced to abandon all she holds dear.
Her character in the film said, “If you go on a journey, you have to be prepared for what happens.” It applied to the filming too, it seemed.
“You want the real truth? It was too damn hot sitting there in all my furs,” Ms. Binoche said. She prepared for the scenes shot in warmer climes by stepping into a meat fridge on location.
Video: Making of the film "nobody wants the night".
The director, Isabelle Coixet, described the difficulties of shooting the film in Norway and Tenerife in a Spanish-French Bulgarian co-production.
The film is the second movie made by a woman to open the Berlinale film festival, held for the 65th time in Germany’s capital city.
It is the first time that a woman’s history of the North Pole has been told, Ms. Coixet said.
“I hope it’s not the last.”
She had little patience with comments about being a female filmmaker, speaking at a press conference. Her film showed characters who are driven and obsessed, men and women alike.
“I’m very determined,” she said. “But let’s talk about more interesting things than gender. Many other things are important too.”
Her movie is one of nineteen films competing for the Golden and Silver bears in the competition category at the Berlinale, the city’s film festival.
Other contenders also tell of travel and its frustrations.
“Queen of the Desert” pits a woman against a hostile landscape, telling the story of British administrator, cartographer and spy Gertrude Bell. In the leading role, Nicole Kidman plays the woman who helped shape British colonial policy in the Middle East.
Peter Greenaway’s film, “Eisentein in Guanajuato” tracks the journey of Sergio Eisenstein to Mexico in 1931, a Soviet moviemaker who is struggling with financiers to make a film in a foreign country which is joyful and threatening.
“The Pearl Button” is a documentary co-produced in Chile, Spain and France. The tale tells of two buttons found mysteriously on the floor of the ocean near Chile, through the voices of indigenous people, political prisoners and sailors, against a supernatural landscape whose power emerges during the film.
"Diary of a Chambermaid" is the story of a woman in 1900 who moves from lively Paris to a quite different place: a home in traditional Normandy. Through her journal, the director explores power and its limits as she navigates the structures at the house.
Others tell of different journeys. Andrew Haigh presents a couple’s sudden crisis after 45 years of marriage, in a movie called "45."
The festival is becoming a magnet for Hollywood stars, attracting jury members, actors and attendees with growing star quality.
The opening Thursday night was attended by the head of the jury Darren Aronofsky, a director, screenwriter and producer from the United States, along with jury co-members Audrey Tatou, one of France’s best-known actresses and Daniel Brühl, a German actor well-known for his role in “Inglorious Basterds”. The gala also saw attendance from politicians including Germany’s minister for foreign affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, minister of the interior Thomas de Mazière, and culture minister Monika Grütters.
Berlin’s film festival’s profile has been growing steadily since it introduced juries to select the prize winners. The International Federation of Film Producers Associations gave the Berlinale an A rating in 1958, putting it on par with two other European film festivals with a higher profile, Cannes and Venice. While both are glamorous, Berlin’s is known for showing edgy, political and provocative films.
The festival is also gaining a higher profile in the media, said Oliver Bernau, a press officer at the film festival. “The number of journalists coming to cover the festival has stayed pretty much the same over the last two to three years but has definitely increased over the past decade,” he told Handelsblatt Global Edition. “That’s partly due to the growth of online media.”
The journalists and audience may have some tough scenes ahead in the next ten days but hopefully there is some glimmer of light among the dark views of people and nature.
Allison Williams is deputy editor in chief at Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the author: [email protected]