BERLINALE SPECIAL Day 5: Valentine’s day arrives at the festival, Mikhaël Hers charms everyone with The Passengers of the Night

Berlinale did its best to bring Valentine’s day to its audience this year. Yesterday the festival guests had the chance to attend the world premieres of three new competition programme films that embodied different types of love. The day started a bit slow with AEIOU– A Quick Alphabet of Love by Nicolette Krebitz, a love of stark contrasts, of young and old, of a speaking skills teacher and her student, a bit simple but still working.  

The next film of the day was That kind of Summer by Denis Côté. Following a group of sex addicts at the psychological retreat, the film dwells deeply into the topic of unsettling, deep emotional abuse-related trauma while picturesquely showcasing the sexual deviants. While this might not be the best film Berlinale has to offer it is a splendid, one of a kind, slow-pace film that takes time to develop, poke characters, and push them to their limits. It also manages here and there to offer some great engaging WTF moments to keep viewers at the edge of their seats.

The final film of the day was the brilliant The Passengers of the Night by Mikhaël Hers (a short review of the film after daily updates).  Around the time of the premiere of this film, Berlinale sent out a press release that Isabelle Huppert, recipient of this year’s Honorary Golden Bear is unable to attend the Berlinale in person as she has been tested positive for the coronavirus in Paris yesterday.

While informing the festival, she emphasised that she feels very dedicated to the Berlinale and wants to participate in any possible way also to support her latest film À Propos de Joan. Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian stated:

 

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Considering that Isabelle Huppert is not feeling sick and she is willing to support the festival we have decided to go on with the award ceremony. As she cannot come, we will send our love and admiration to her home in Paris. We look forward to having her in Berlin another time”

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The Passengers of the Night  – review

Mikhaël Hers’s latest work The Passengers of the Night settles around Elisabeth (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) recently divorced mother of two teenagers, as she gets the job at the local radio station during nighttime. Elisabeth starts working as a call operator for the “The Passengers of the Night” radio programme, made for all the truly lost souls and insomniacs.

The radio show serves as the metaspace for the mood and the film narrative. As a gentle radio hostess’s voice runs the show, bringing the stories of those ready to share their lives, the melancholic sounds of blues, rock and punk echo the radio space. This same principle works for the film, getting even deeper under the viewer’s skin with additional 8/16mm analogue footage of the city during the ’80s. 

Director Hers builds up the film on emotions, concentrating on everyday moments of life that end up the most cherished memories. Still, even with the slow pace and a simple story, the film manages to get enough “drama” as it presents Talulah (starring fantastic Noée Abita) a homeless drug addict teenager that comes to the radio to confess to the audience of the radio programme. 

The introduction of Talulah in the film gives the perfect balance between the family issues, and the individual lives of the characters, along the way providing the “uplifting” points that push the story forwards. Hers gives enough time and value to every single character, it is obvious that there was also a lot of thought about the sounds and images presented, which makes The Passengers of the Night one of the best films at the festival this year.


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