REVIEW: Boyhood, Cracks in the Concrete, Praia do Futuro

I’m spending my last days in Berlin with exceptional competition films, nostalgia for my home town Vienna and the Festiwelt party at Roadrunner’s Paradise.

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Praia do Futuro

There are films, that can be best understood by a certain generation. Upon overhearing negative comments from some older journalists, I decided Karim Ainouz’ Praia do Futuro must be one of them. Like no other film I saw in the Berlinale Competition, this film speaks to the romantic and lost soul of the wanderer I am.

Warm summer sun, clear blue skies and rolling drums of the waves breaking at the shore. One man’s paradise, another man’s hell. After loosing his friend to the mighty powers of the ocean on Praia do Futuro, a beach along the Brazilian coast, German traveller Konrad (Clemens Schick) finds comfort and love in the local lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura). Leaving his little brother and mother, and burning all bridges behind him Donato follows Konrad to Berlin – and stays for good. Years later, his brother Ayrton (Jesuita Barbosa) tracks him down and takes him to task.

Donato leaves his family without notice. The difficulties of leading an openly homosexual life in a conservative small town society are hinted at, but his exact reasons for running away are unclear. Why on Earth would he exchange a paradisiac beach for the grey winter in Berlin? But understanding him, explaining his actions is not what Ainouz aims at. Much more he transports the feeling of desparation, of a new start, of happiness and of acceptance in the end.

Schick’s and Moura’s performances cover an enormous range of emotions. Their characters’ relationship grows and develops from giving comfort and sympathy, over offering hope and a way out, to a close bonding love. At the latest when Donato stays put at Konrad’s side, instead of taking the train to Berlin’s airport, anyone, who has ever had to leave a loved one, will cheer with joy. Portrayed as a daring step, rather than cheesy romanticism, this scene is the turning point of their relationship.

Ainouz’ perspective at the search for one’s own identity makes this film one of the highlights of this year’s Competition.

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Cracks in the Concrete

Nostalgia for my home town Vienna, made me sit down and watch Umut Dag’s Cracks in the Concrete, an Austrian contribution to Panorama section. But Dag’s image of the old imperial city is far from the beautiful pictures in my head.

Released from jail and on probation Ertan (Murathan Muslu) tries to reintegrate in his old neighborhood. Parties, alcohol and hookers used to be everything he needed to feel happy, and withstanding the temptation is harder than he thought. His drug-dealing son Mikail (Alechan Tagaev) is caught up in the same vicious circle of violence and criminality. And just as history threatens to repeat itself, father and son are forced to choose between right and wrong.

Dag constructs a desolate city, filled with controverse morals, omnipresent criminality and little hope for change. Muslu’s and Tagaev’s strong expression and remarkable articulation carry the film over its slightly drifting plot. The story written by Dag and Patra Ladinigg doesn’t present anything new, but Vienna itself shows an unexpected dark reality.

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Boyhood

Every festival needs its sweetheart. Three weeks ago Richard Linklater’s experiment Boyhood premiered in Sundance, today it fascinated the hungry crowd in Berlin.

Over 12 consecutive years Linklater gathered his cast annually to document the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and father (Ethan Hawke). In an empathetic coming-of-age story he follows the boy growing up and experiencing a “normal” life. Without showing any typical “first times” – first kiss, first sex, first love -, the scenes focuses on everyday issues and joys in Mason’s life.

Even though starting off with a clear idea and strictly scripted dialogues, the characters evolved throughout the year, influenced by personal experiences and interests of the cast and crew. Their special connection to the project is sensible and grows stronger with every year in progress. And without the pretentiousness of a Dawson Leery, Mason turns into a thoughtful young man, that even sells cheesy lines like “The moment is now”.

Set in rural Texas and related to time with a backdrop of social and political contexts, Boyhood convinces with an unspectacular naturalness and consciousness for the self. If this doesn’t win a Bear, what else?

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