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Day 1 at the Berlinale 2023

The festival has begun

Berlinale: Photographers on the red carpet
Photographers on the red carpet © KARSTEN THIELKER

It's time: Today is the first Berlinale day after yesterday's opening gala at the Berlinale Palast. After last year's festival was still held under corona conditions, we are now all sitting together in the cinema and hoping for ten days full of great films and a carefree sense of community, the feeling of watching a film together, cheering along, laughing, crying and being carried away by gripping stories.

The opening gala

International Film Festival Berlin
In front of the Berlinale Palace © KARSTEN THIELKER

Finally a red carpet again, a festive gala full of moving moments, stars and fans, eager hustle and bustle, full press conferences with journalists from all over the world - and on top of that a bright spring sun ... the first day of the festival already fulfilled the expectations that were directed at the first post-pandemic Berlinale.

In the evening, the currently rather inhospitable Potsdamer Platz was transformed into a magical place as the lights around the red carpet shone. German and international stars such as Anne Hathaway, Lars Eidinger, Peter Dinklage, Joan Baez, Matthias Schweighöfer and Kirsten Stewart walked the red carpet and basked in the flashlight. During the day there had already been the first crowd at the Hyatt when the crew from the opening film arrived for the press conference.

The Berlinale sees itself as a political festival, and that is especially true this year. Sean Penn, who made a film about the Ukrainian president Selenskyj, spoke at the opening. He was then joined live and celebrated with a standing ovation. He invoked the power of cinema, recalled "The Sky over Berlin" and pointed out that the Berlin Wall once ran right along Potsdamer Platz.

The opening film "She came to me"

The famous opera composer (Peter Dinklage) suffers from a creative block from which he is released by an encounter with a love-struck captain. Meanwhile, his wife (Anne Hathaway) turns more and more to God. Their son from his first marriage enjoys first teenage love with his schoolmate, whose mother turns out to be the cleaning lady. Her reactionary husband tries to put a stop to their relationship ... Sounds more complicated than it ultimately is.
Director Rebecca Miller, who has already been a guest at the Berlinale with her films The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and Maggie's Game, took the idea from one of her short stories and developed it into a warm-hearted, light comedy.

"She came to me" is a variation on love in all its different forms, first love, love of God, of art, love that comes to us quite unexpectedly in unexpected places. And this feel-good film, even if it comes across as a little too predictable, is a fitting introduction to a festival in which many films reflect the difficult world situation and promise rather heavy fare.

Outlook for the festival Friday

Today the competition starts with three promising-sounding entries: The American film BlackBerry about the first smartphone, Emily Atef's film adaptation of the Wend novel Someday We Will Tell Each Other Everything and the Australian film The Survival of Kindness are the first to enter the race for the coveted bears.

The other sections also start with a full programme. On Thursday, the Panorama opened with the animated film La Sirène about a boy's fight for survival in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980.  On Friday, the Zoo Palast will show the French film La Bête dans la jungle about waiting for the one, all-changing moment in life.

Coming of Age is actually the theme of the Retrospective, but Jennifer Reeder's film Perpetrator is a coming-of-age story, albeit a bloody one. So after her last Berlinale film Knives and Skin, we can look forward to some new wicked fun from the American director.

The Encounters section is much quieter with El Eco, a film about childhood in a lonely village in northern Mexico.  

The Generation section begins with Zeevonk at Generation Kplus, which tells of dealing with grief and loss, and with the German film Wann wird es endlich wieder wie es nie war at Generation14plus.

So it promises to be a colourful bouquet of themes, emotions and styles.

We can look forward to what the first day will bring.