Berlin and Beyond Film Festival

"Movie Magazine International" Special Report

(Air Date: Week Of 1/8/97)

By Andrea Chase

Angst and weltschmerz abound at the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival.

Opening night offers Sexy Sadie, an exercise in absurdist nihilism so playfully amoral, so beautifully photographed, that you can almost believe it's a great film instead of one that's merely pretty good.

It gives us Edgar, a serial killer serving three life sentences who discovers he has a brain tumor and a week to live. Rather than wait for the end in his cell, he escapes, prison doctor in tow, for a last hurrah in the outside world. As Edgar tries to spend his last days discovering the joys of satellite television and the mysteries of sushi, his victims, the ones who are still ambulatory that is, descend on him one by one like so many avenging angels, as anxious for answers as for the pleasure of getting even.

Filmmaker Matthias Glasner creates a comic book reality of ironic humor. But he has a tendency to allow the low-key mood to stagnate into no-key. The biggest problem, though, is the doctor. She goes along for the ride when she could easily escape and the non-explanation explanation at the end irks rather than illuminates. Edgar, on the other hand, is no cipher at all. He's not so much evil, as curious about things, like what skin looks like on the other side. If people get hurt, they get hurt.

A whole different world of hurt permeates Ivan Fila's entirely stunning film, Lea, screening January 11. The title character is a sensitive artist buffeted too harshly by life. As a child she witnesses her abusive father murdering her mother with a crucifix. Struck dumb, she's sent to live with a foster family that, years later, is all too happy to sell her off to a stranger offering hard currency. Her life now becomes a harrowing echo of her mother's, but unlike her mother's, Lea's life is sweetened when the man casually brutalizing her is offered advice on courtship. Surprisingly, he takes it, and these two souls, both blighted by violence and disappointment, eventually learn to accept joy as part of their lives.

This is a beautiful, but not an easy, film to watch. It captures a world of psychological torture ready to erupt at any moment into the physical. The exquisite cinematography delineates the utter isolation of every human being.

PC? Absolutely not. Unforgettable? Undeniably.

Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase

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