Berlin 2015: Our guide to this year's lineup

The 65th Berlin International Film Festival opens this Thursday with Spanish director Isabel Coixet's Nobody Wants the Night. Starring Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi, and filmed across Bulgaria, Norway and Spain, Coixet's Arctic-set romantic escapade is a fairly low-key opener. However, whilst it may not be as glamorous or high profile as last year's inaugural gala, Wes Anderson's ornate crime-caper The Grand Budapest Hotel, Coixet's latest remains a fitting curtain raiser for a festival that prides itself as much for its culturally diverse programme, as the glitz and glamour of its red carpet galas. This year's Golden Bear grand prize will be decided by jury president Darren Aronofsky, whilst last year the award was won by Yi'nan Diao's Black Coal, Thin Ice in a mediocre denouement to the main competition.

It would appear the festival has taken note of the criticism levied towards last year's line-up, and this February audiences can expect a new film from renowned directors such as Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups, Robert Pattinson, James Franco and Nicole Kidman in Werner Herzog's biopic of explorer/diplomat Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, as well as the latest work from state-detained Iranian director Jafar Panahi, entitled Taxi. This year the festival bestows celebrated German director Wim Wenders with an Honorary Golden Bear, and in addition to a retrospective of his work (with films such as Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire and Alice in the Cities screening throughout the festival) his latest Everything Will Be Fine will screen out-of-competition.

We're particularly looking forward to seeing what British filmmaker and Weekend (2012) director Andrew Haigh has on offer with 45 Years, whilst fans of Patricio Guzman's dreamlike enquiry into the 'disappeared' political prisoners of his homeland Nostalgia for the Light (2012), will be excited to see his latest documentary The Pearl Button challenge for the festival's highest honour. The competition line-up also boasts new work from Radu Jude, whose Romanian western Aferm! will find itself up against Pablo Larraín's dark enquiry into the secrets of the Catholic church El Club and Aleksei German Jr.'s spiritual examination of contemporary Russian malaise, Under Electric Clouds. The full competition line-up is listed below and includes an array of intriguing work from across the globe.

The Berlinale's Forum and Panorama strands can serve up a mixed bag of experimental and often wilfully oblique films that test and challenge audiences' notions of what cinema can and should be. However, in their attempts to grapple with larger sociopolitical issues often absent within the current cultural discourse some of these films can be a genuinely revelatory experience. For example, in the Forum strand is Emyr Ap Richard and Darhad Erdenibulage's contemporary adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Castle, K. Transferring Kafka's surreal tale of a land surveyor's struggle against bureaucracy to inner-Mongolia, K's post-modern re-imagining of this tale of alienation and authoritarian subjugation promises to be one of the festival's more challenging yet enthralling films. K is joined by the latest to come from Museum Hours (2012) director Jem Cohen, whose latest documentary Counting is purportedly a homage to Chris Marker.

Queen of Earth, a swift follow-up to Listen Up Philip, sees Alex Ross Perry once again team up with Elizabeth Moss for a psychological thriller that, according to a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter, is influenced by Polanski's Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). Chilean prankster Sebastian Silva returns with Nasty Baby, which stars Bridesmaids' Kristen Wiig as a surrogate mother for a gay couple, and arrives at the festival after a successful spell at Sundance. There's also plenty of fresh produce from Lithuania, Romania and Russia, countries that that look set to continue Berlinale's longstanding link to former Eastern Bloc countries and their probing form of self-reflective cinema. The festival also boasts potential discoveries from Iran, Morocco, Palestinian and South Africa.

The Retrospective strand at the Berlin Film Festival is always a treasure trove of cinematic delights and this year looks set to infuse the grey, snow covered concrete boulevards of the city with a much needed burst of colour. An opulent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the colour film process, the Retrospective will present 30 magnificent Technicolor films, including, Richard Boleslawski's drama The Garden of Allah (1936), George Sidney adventure The Three Musketeers (1948) and Victor Fleming's much cherished MGM musical The Wizard of Oz (1939). Outside of the main programme lie a plethora of headline-grabbing premiers, including Kenneth Branagh's live action Cinderella, Matthew Weiner's comedy Are You Here and Anton Corbijn's Life, about the the real-life friendship formed between photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) and James Dean (Dane DeHaan). However, this year's festival is destined to be overshadowed by the international premier of the hugely anticipated adaptation of E.L. James' salacious bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. The film is reportedly not screening to UK press, and with a valentines release date already confirmed all eyes will be on the Berlinale to see if the film manages to match the hype.

Here's the full Berlinale competition lineup:

45 Years, dir. Andrew Haigh
Aferim!, dir. Radu Jude
Als wir träumten (As We Were Dreaming), dir. Andreas Dresen

Body, dir. Malgorzata Szumowska
Cha và con và (Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories), dir. Di Phan Dang

Cinderella, dir. Kenneth Branagh

Eisenstein in Guanajuato, dir. Peter Greenaway
El botón de nácar (The Pearl Button), dir. Patricio Guzmán
El Club (The Club), dir. Pablo Larraín

Elser (13 Minutes), dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel

Every Thing Will Be Fine, dir. Wim Wenders

Ixcanul (Ixcanul Volcano), dir. Jayro Bustamante

Journal d'une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid), dir. Benoit Jacquot

Knight of Cups dir. Terrence Malick
Mr. Holmes, dir. Bill Condon
Nobody Wants the Night, dir. Isabel Coixet
Pod electricheskimi oblakami (Under Electric Clouds), dir. Alexey German
Queen of the Desert, dir. Werner Herzog
Taxi, dir. Jafar Panahi
Ten no chasuke (Chasuke's Journey), dir. Sabu Vergine giurata (Sworn Virgin), dir. Laura Bispuri
Victoria, dir. Sebastian Schipper

Yi bu zhi yao (Gone with the Bullets), dir. Wen Jiang

The 65th Berlin Film Festival takes place from 5-15 February 2015. For more of our coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble


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