I set my alarm last night with best intentions of getting up bright and early to get some tickets in my pocket, but, a few hits of the snooze button put pay to that idea. Instead, I gather all the festival information I have at my disposal: programme listings, catalogue, map, online cinema specs, pass entitlements etc. With all this info I plan to devise a full proof algorithm that will tell me which films I can see, when and where during my 2.5 days left. After an hour or so of crossing things out, circling things in different colours and marking with nonsensical codes, I've got myself in a muddle. I decide to come back to it later as I have to get ready for my Audiovisual Training Coalition brunch engagement.
After the ATC event, I head to the European Film Market (EFM) to deposit some Developing Your Film Festival postcards at the MEDIA desk. The EFM is vast! Housed in an imposing yet beautiful period building, it has an enormous hall at its centre which amplifies all the energy and bustle. There must be thousands of meetings going on at any one time. It's a real treat to be able to have a nose around the market without a market badge and see some of the films on offer, many are gems with terrible victim-of-translation titles and pants mock up posters. The film I most want to see after my tour...Mussels in Love.
Mussels in Love
Having no tickets and no firm plans for the evening leaves me wandering around a little aimlessly for a while. I'm very keen to see something at the International, a beautifully preserved 1960s one screen cinema in Alexanderplatz, so ambitiously I decide to try my luck on the door for Nicolas Philibert's La maison de la radio which is starting in 25 minutes. It may have worked out perfectly had I not had a momentary lapse of concentration and gone four stops in the wrong direction on the underground. Skulking back Potsdamer way, tail between my legs, I finally head to the ticket hall to see if I can get any last minute tickets for tonight.
After an unintentional visit to the Berlinale Talent Campus and the public ticket desk in a nearby shopping centre, I finally find the Berlinale Service Centre and realise as soon as I'm through the door that this should have been my second stop yesterday. It has everything you need; an expanded programme with far more info on the films and printed daily listings by venue for today and tomorrow, which are so much easier to fathom than by programme strand. With only the vaguest of ideas of what I'd like to see today and tomorrow, it turns out the decision is already made for me as there a no tickets tonight and only three films available with my pass tomorrow, "this, this and this" I'm told - I'll take whatever's going! I'm pleased that one is a 10am screening of an Iranian film in competition Pardé (Closed Curtain). My other two tickets are for Indian film Kai Po Che (Brothers for Life) and Tian mi mi (Together) from Taiwan. I'm advised that if I want tickets for Thursday I should arrive at 6.45am tomorrow morning and queue until the ticket desk opens at 8.00am.
Tomorrow is now sorted, but I'm determined to see a film each day I’m here. With my new and improved resources I can now clearly see my options and am a bit dejected that I've just missed a screening of Viktor und Viktoria (1933). I set my sights on a late show of Powell and Pressburgers' The Small Back Room, showing as part of The Weimar Touch Retrospective strand. I figure if I'm first in the badge queue then I might be able to get in without a ticket, so I plonk myself in front of Cinemaxx Screen 8 with 1 hour and 45 minutes to go before the screening, much to the amusement of the usher who says most people turn up 10 minutes before. In actuality it was a doddle to get in with the cinema no more than 2/3rds full despite the ticket scarcity.
The Small Back Room
A little late to the party, I know, but I've only recently started to see the treasures of the Powell and Pressburger catalogue. The Small Back Room (1949) is not one I've heard of before but I'm very glad to have discovered it here. I know I'm in for a treat when the title card reads "From the National Print Archive" and indeed it is a wonderful print, scratched, dusty and missing frames all over the place. Archivists and some projectionists I know would be sad to see a print in such a sorry state, but I love the constant reminders that I'm watching at real film print. Set during the latter end of WW2, our antihero is Sammy Rice (David Farrar), a bomb disposal expert who is debilitated by his resentment towards his physical disabilities (a leg injury never fully revealed) and his whiskey dependency (alcoholism is only inferred, never named). Overall the film is patchy in tone with the more interesting dark themes not gelling with the interspersed comic relief and heightened romance. There are, however, two outstanding extended sequences; the bomb disposal scene, which would be curious to watch next to The Hurt Locker, and an extraordinary surrealist montage where Rice is attacked by a 15ft bottle of Highland Clan Whiskey.
After the screening I have a mint tea 'night cap' with Ana David from Queer Lisboa who has attended both Motovun courses in different capacities (participant and course ambassador). As a Berlinale regular, she has some great festival survival tips for me. She informs me of the true power of my industry pass, suggesting you only need to get tickets in the first few days of the festival, never having had a problem just turning up to screenings with 30 minutes to spare in the second week. And with this valuable new knowledge, I am no longer setting my alarm for 6.00am.