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L’Empire (The Empire), r. Bruno Dumont
Film & Tv

The Best Films from the Berlinale and Why You Should Watch Them

Fewer films were shown at Berlinale 2024 than at previous editions, but there were films of all possible styles, genres, themes... This is one of the richer editions of the festival.

Tena Razumović Žmara

February 27, 2024

This year’s Berlinale brought a truly varied and rich selection of films, despite the total number of films being reduced to two hundred, from the nearly three hundred films usually in competition. Some of the award-winning movies were real surprises, and they also featured on the list of the festival’s best movies.

The Berlinale this year had it all: from a spirit animal, a hippopotamus, family dramas, sci-fi, satire, Cillian Murphy in a role completely different from the dominating Oppenheimer of last year (lest we forget that Cillian is a great actor, especially in historical, socially engaged dramas), to documentaries (the best movie of the festival is a documentary!) and movies from various non-European cinematographies, the Asian ones really came to the fore. Let’s go through the best movies.

Dahomey , r. Mati Diop

“Dahomey” is a documentary film from 2024 directed by Mati Diop. The film is about the return of 26 royal treasures of the Kingdom of Dahomey to Benin. The film became the third documentary to win the festival’s main prize, the Golden Bear, following “On the Adamant”, and “Fire at Sea”. It’s set to hit European cinemas from September this year. The film tells the story of 26 royal artifacts from the Kingdom of Dahomey (1600-1904), which were returned to Benin from France. They were plundered during the colonial era and displayed in the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, a Parisian museum of non-European art Among the returned items were the statues of the former kings of Dahomey, King Glélé and King Béhanzin, which held great symbolic value. Their throne, seized by French soldiers in 1892, was also returned. The artworks are now displayed in a special museum in Abomey, the ancient royal city, about 65 miles from the Gulf of Guinea coast.

Dahomey, d. Mati Diop

Dahomey, d. Mati Diop

Yeohaengjaui pilyo (A Traveler’s Needs) , dir. Hong Sangsoo

In this South Korean drama, the main role is played by actress Isabelle Huppert, who played a French woman, a musician with an interesting life story. She initially played the children’s recorder in the park and faced severe financial problems, she was left without a source of income and began to teach French to two women. In all this difficult situation, she finds solace in lying on stones and in makgeollia, an ancient Korean rice drink, like rice wine. All to – comfort herself. The movie won the Silver Bear award, the jury’s grand prize.

Yeohaengjaui pilyo (A Traveler's Needs), d, Hong Sangsoo

Yeohaengjaui pilyo (A Traveler’s Needs), d. Hong Sangsoo

L’Empire (The Empire) , d. Bruno Dumont

This movie is an apocalyptic sci-fi comedy-drama that premiered at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, competing for the Golden Bear. It was released in French cinemas at the end of February. Two opposing forces from the depths of space trigger an apocalyptic conflict on the picturesque Côte d’Opale of northern France. Several critics have described the movie as a parody of the Star Wars franchise. Certainly an interesting choice for the Silver Bear award, the jury award.

L'Empire (The Empire), d, Bruno Dumont

L’Empire (The Empire), d. Bruno Dumont

A Different Man , d. Aaron Schimberg

A psychological thriller starring Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve and Adam Pearson. The plot of the film follows Edward, who after an operation (because he suffers from neurofibromatosis) which enables him to start his life anew, becomes completely fixated on another man, the man who plays him in a stage play based on Edward’s “past” life. The movie premiered globally at Sundance in January 2024, with Sebastian Stan winning the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlinale.

A Different Man, d. Aaron Schimberg

A Different Man, d. Aaron Schimberg

Small Things Like These , d. Tim Mielants

This historical drama tells the story of the so-called “Magdalene laundries”, institutions in Ireland, in which for various reasons over 30,000 women worked and were actually imprisoned and abused in the period from the 1820s to 1996. The movie captures a moment in history, a romanticized moment just before Christmas 1985 when coal merchant Bill Furlong discovers a local monastery in the Irish town of New Ross, one of these institutions. The prisoners were required to work, primarily in laundries. This movie sheds light on a dark part of Roman Catholic history starring Cillian Murphy. Alongside him are Eileen Walsh, Michelle Fairley, Emily Watson, Clare Dunne and Helen Behan. Emily Watson won the Silver Bear for Best Supporting Actress at the Berlinale.

Small Things Like These, d. Tim Mielants

Small Things Like These, d. Team Mielants

Dying , dir. Matthias Glasner

In the film “Dying”, Matthias Glasner contemplates mortality through different members of a family in his first feature film since 2012, a self-reflexive comedy-drama about death. Although the film lasts over three hours and comprises as many as five chapters, this Glasner story is a version of the traditional family saga deconstructed to become a series of overlapping chapters about the individuals of one family, watched in one go. The film won the Silver Bear for best screenplay.

Dying, dir. Matthias Glasner

Dying, dir. Matthias Glasner

Pepe , dir. Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias

The film is actually the voice of Pepe, the first and only hippopotamus killed in South America, who appears as a ghost to recount its story through the powerful oral tradition of the community.

The young hippopotamus, named Pepe by the Colombian media, was killed in the jungles of Colombia, but returns in the form of a ghost. It’s the voice of the hippopotamus, or so it says. It has no sense of time, only of the past that haunts it. The animal is sure of one thing: it is no longer alive. It was the first and last of its kind to be killed in “the Americas”; as stated in the official synopsis of the film. With this film, viewers are drawn into a world of many stories, each containing more stories within. The film actually conveys the speech, the expression of the places where beings like Pepe disappeared without ever realizing their true situation. Nelson Carlos de los Santos Arias won the Silver Bear for Best Director.

Pepe, dir. Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias

Pepe, dir. Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias