This week something exceptional is happening – a film will be shown in Berlin for an entire week although it doesn’t have a distribution company. What does that mean? It means there won’t be any advertising and probably no reviews apart from this one. There will be no more than one copy of the film and there won’t be a professional structure to make this film public – and be seen.
What has happened?
In 2007, young filmmaker Ann-Kristin Reyels made her debut with the much talked about Hounds (Jagdhunde), which got her a lot of attention and won her the FIPRESCI prize of the International Federation of Film Critics at the 2007 Berlinale.
Hounds also won its lead actress Luise Berndt the First Steps Award for a well praised feature debut.
Five years later, Ann-Kristin Reyels’ second feature premiered at the Berlinale in 2012. It is set on a Balearic Island and deals with the conflicts of a young Berlin-based couple during their holidays. It is called Formentera (after its main location) and is a wonderfully honest and sensuous investigation into the problematic dynamics of a pair of lovers in a paradise-like setting. But this time, the critics are not very generous and not very original. Most of them compared Formentera with Everyone Else (Alle Anderen) by Maren Ade and stated, in a very “investigative” manner, that the story of a couple’s conflicts in the setting of a Mediterranean island has been told similarly before. Oh really? Last year Hollywood made a remake of Spiderman, a film that was only ten years old, had had two boring sequels, and was based on a comic book. Let’s talk about that for a second. What is it in this country, I kept asking myself, that makes it so difficult for young and ambitious filmmakers to get a little love and support for their work that might not be perfect, but still worth watching and worthy of discussion? What makes a film critic like Andreas Kilb, who I usually admire for his clarity and eloquence, only (and quite chauvinistically) mention the “beautiful women” and the “blue skies” in this film and how nice it is to watch Sabine Timoteo swim?
So let’s talk about something nice: The Fsk cinema is showing Formentera now. Thanks to the heroic collective of six cinema activists who founded the cinema in the late 1980s, Berlin has a place where you are guaranteed to discover an exceptional and daring film every week. The Fsk also often programmes filmmakers whose films are not being supported by a distribution company – like Ann-Kristin Reyels and other directors, like, most recently, Andrea Arnold or Anke Hentschel. The fact that Andrea Arnold’s visually compelling and simply breath-taking Wuthering Heights adoption never made to the big screen in Germany (even after she won an Oscar for her short film Wespen in 2005 and got much attention for her feature debut Fish Tank) is simply scandalous. So, a couple of cinema operators were stubborn enough to show the film anyways and thereby allowing some curious cinephiles to have a magical and mind-opening two hours.
Anke Hentschel’s courageous portrait of an illiterate woman’s late liberation, Unteachable (Unbelehrbar, 2010), is a film that has struggled financially since its making and never got distributed – despite being awarded at the Achtung Berlin Festival and despite being selected for other prestigious festivals like the Max Ophüls in Saarbrücken.
Once again, the Fsk showed the film anyways and suddenly other Berlin cinemas like Eiszeit, Sputnik, Hackesche Höfe, and Lichtblick decided to programme it as well and thus give the film the (after-)life it deserves so much.
It is also striking that the much-neglected films that are lacking support are often those by women filmmakers. Once again, the commitment of the Fsk mustn’t be undervalued here since they work against the sometimes inscrutable structures of sexism in the film business by showing the films by women filmmakers that would otherwise be neglected or even forgotten. Last year, an astonishing 25% of all films shown at the Fsk were directed or co-directed by women, and this year is has been 50 % so far!
One of them is Formentera that opens this Thursday.
We are introduced to a young couple, Nina (Sabone Timoteo) and Benno, that arrives on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean to take some time off from their lives in Berlin and enjoy the first holiday without their daughter. They rent a motorcycle and drive to the picturesque house where part of Benno’s family lives in a peaceful and easy-going hippie commune. The wind in their hair while they drive, the smell of the grass and the light sea breeze – all that is palpable from the very beginning of the film and you instantly wish you were sitting through the night with them over one or two glasses of red wine.
But not all is as perfect as it seems and pretty soon we realize that Nina and Benno haven’t told each other everything about how they feel and what they want. It doesn’t take long until Nina gets jealous over the independent and sweet Mara who also lives in the house and gets along well with Benno.
One night the three of them decide to go to a beach party and, after getting drunk, they make a crazy plan to swim to Ibiza. Mara gets lost, Benno gets left behind, and Nina actually makes it to the next shore where she arrives only dressed in underwear.
There is an amazing sensation of discomfort watching actress Sabine Timoteo walk half-naked through the party crowds at night searching for help. Filmed with what must have been a hidden camera, she is running the gauntlet, completely exposed to the views of intoxicated party tourists and irritated locals. Vulnerability has rarely been so tangible.
The exceptional performance of Sabine Timoteo and the unusual casting of Danish actor Thure Lindhardt (Keep the Lights On) as her boyfriend give Formentera a distinct originality that along with the sultry cinematography of Henner Besuch make it a unique and beautiful film. Ann-Kristin Reyels manages to keep up the tension of the perfect, peaceful location on the one hand, and the slowly surfacing drama on the other hand. All in all, Formentera is a very intense film and a sensitive observation at the same time. It deserves a big screen and a wider cinematic release.
Thanks to the Fsk, Berliners can see it now for a week…
Formentera, Germany 2012, 93 min.
director: Ann-Kristin Reyels, cinematography: Henner Besuch, actors: Sabine Timoteo, Thure Lindhardt, Tatja Seibt, Geoffrey Layton, Christian Brückner, Vicky Krieps, Franc Bruneau, Ilse Ritter, languages: German, English, Spanish, French (with German subtitles)
Berlin Screenings: Fsk
Activism must be rewarded, so there won’t be free tickets this week. Support your local cinema! Go there and buy a ticket!