BERLIN (Reuters) - The 60th Berlin film festival ended with a generally popular Golden Bear winner, the elegiac Turkish father-and-son drama “Honey,” but the annual movie marathon failed to impress some critics who said it lacked bite.
While acknowledging a solid competition of 20 movies that was better than recent years, they bemoaned a lack of standout entries of the kind that light up a major festival.
“This year’s official selection has played out in a worthy but often dull way, like a giant festival walking in slow motion,” said Derek Elley of the trade publication Variety.
“Few titles have generated any buzz or heated discussion, and even fewer people have been shouting about their discoveries.”
Contributing to the downbeat mood among hundreds of journalists and critics who trudged from screening to screening over 10 days in a snowy Berlin was the tough, even grim, subject matter tackled by many of the movies.
The competition lineup included a film about the aftermath of war — “Caterpillar” centers on a Japanese soldier who returns from the front mute and deaf and without arms and legs — broken families and a psychotic serial killer.
Berlin was not without buzz altogether, and Roman Polanski’s latest film “The Ghost Writer” celebrated its world premiere without the 76-year-old director.
Polanski, who won a Silver Bear for best director, is fighting extradition to the United States where he is wanted for an underage sex case dating back more than 30 years, and completed the movie in jail and under house arrest in his Swiss chalet.
American director Martin Scorsese brought his latest drama “Shutter Island” to the festival, ensuring A-list star power on the red carpet in the form of actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
The success or otherwise of the Berlinale is also judged by the level of business on the European Film Market which runs throughout the festival, and buyers and sellers spoke of a solid, though not spectacular, year.
At the awards ceremony on Saturday, “Honey” came away with the top prize in a surprise decision that few pundits foresaw.
The jury, led by German director Werner Herzog and including Hollywood actress Renee Zellweger, decided against rewarding the political or shocking and went instead for a minimalist, slow-paced story about a son’s love for his beekeeper father.
Bora Altas, the 8-year-old who played the central character Yusuf, won over audiences with his touching performance in a film that had no soundtrack and little in the way of plot but resonated with some critics.
“I hope to be able to show feelings — love, emotion and hope, also the pleasure in living — and hope my films can trigger these emotions too,” director Semih Kaplanoglu said of “Honey,” the final part of a trilogy.
Other winners in Berlin were Russian film “How I Ended This Summer,” a drama about two men living in a remote part of the Arctic Circle who become involved in a life-and-death struggle.
The cast of two — Grigori Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis — shared the best actor award, while the movie also won a Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution.
“If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle,” a Romanian prison drama about a teenager’s desperate bid to escape, won the runner-up Jury Prize and the Alfred-Bauer Award for cinematic innovation.
Japan’s Shinobu Terajima was named best actress for her role in “Caterpillar” and Wang Quan’an of China won the screenplay award for “Apart Together,” about an elderly couple reunited decades after losing each other during the Chinese civil war.
Editing by Andrew Dobbie