Less Politics, More Love as Berlin Film Festival Returns to Live Screenings

The artistic director Carlo Chatrian, right, and managing director Mariette Rissenbeek, of the International Berlin Film Festival Berlinale pose for photographers during a media event, prior to the official program presentation for the festival, in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, January 19, 2022. Markus Schreiber/Pool via REUTERS

The theme of love dominates the main competition entries at this year's Berlin Film Festival, in a shift away from hard-hitting, political dramas the annual cinema showcase is best known for.

Live screenings will resume in 2022 after last year's online-only version, in an event artistic director Carlo Chatrian hoped would restore the social bonds that two years of lockdowns and isolation have weakened.

"Never before have we seen and welcomed so many love stories as this year: crazy, improbable, unexpected and intoxicating love," Chatrian said, unveiling this year's competition lineup.

Eighteen films will compete for the Golden Bear for best picture in a slimmed-down competition that includes French director Claire Denis' "Both Sides of the Blade", casting Juliette Binoche in a pandemic-time love triangle.

"Seeing a film in a theatre, being able to hear breathing, laughter or whispers next to you (even with correct social distancing), contributes in a vital way not only to the viewing pleasure but also to strengthening the social function that cinema has, and must continue to have," Chatrian added.

Founded in 1951 in a divided city that straddled the frontlines of the Cold War, the Berlinale is often the most political of the major film festivals, and the 72nd edition, which runs from Feb. 10-20, preserves some of that spirit.

Even as the U.S. Supreme Court hears cases that could limit the right to abortion, Phyllis Nagy's "Call Jane", starring Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver and Kate Mara, is set in the 1960s at a time when abortion was illegal in the country.

France's Francois Ozon returns to the festival with "Peter von Kant", a retelling of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1972 study of love, rage and possessiveness, while Isabelle Huppert, who wins a lifetime achievement award this year, stars in Laurent Lariviere's "About Joan".

Other premieres include Peter Flinth's "Against the Ice" and "Dark Glasses" by Dario Argento, the Italian director best known for the lurid 1977 cult horror film "Suspiria".

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