Berlinale retrospective 2017: 'Future Imperfect'
The Retrospective section of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival is dedicated to one of the most visually stunning genres: science fiction, with films showcasing imaginary worlds in an imperfect future.
'The Fifth Element'
"If Hollywood can do it, then why can't I?" thought French filmmaker Luc Besson. His 1997 movie "The Fifth Element" is set in the 23rd century. In it, an attractive alien, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), is sent to Earth to save the planet. The film's perfect effects, visually inventive artistic direction and costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier turned it into a cult blockbuster.
As in the "The Fifth Element," the American-Australian production "Dark City" (1998) includes references to the German silent movie "Metropolis." Director Alex Proyas depicts a dark vision of the future - a world threatened by extraterrestrial parasites who use human minds as their hosts.
'Warning from Space'
In the 1950s, science fiction boomed in Hollywood and worldwide. Aliens fascinated people in Japan, too, where Koji Shima filmed "Warning from Space." The extraterrestrials in this film come with good intentions, but humans see them as menacing. Perceiving the Other as a threat is a theme relevant to our own times.
'The War of the Worlds'
Several films produced throughout that decade depicted extraterrestrials with evil intentions. A classic among them was the adaptation of H.G. Wells' famous 1897 novel "The War of the Worlds" (1953). Films like this also reflected the world's growing fear of an atomic apocalypse.
'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) was a powerful film that revitalized the genre, along with George Lucas' "Star Wars," released the same year. By portraying friendly aliens, Spielberg added a human touch to sci-fi movies.
The Berlinale retrospective astonishes visitors with some rarely shown works. Who knew that science fiction films had also been produced in East Germany? Hermann Zschoche's "Eolomea" (1972) is set near the space station Margot, offering a "tapestry of new beginning fantasies and psychedelic colors set to easy-listening sounds," wrote the organizers of the retrospective.
Filmmaker John Frankenheimer and cinematographer James Wong Howe made extensive use of wide-angle and fish-eye lenses in "Seconds" (1966). The film tells the story of a bank clerk who obtains a new identity through plastic surgery. However, he discovers that the transformation involves unsettling dimensions. The story is still relevant.
'Ikarie XB 1'
The Czech film "Ikarie XB 1" by Jindrich Polák (1963) is probably not as renowned as its imagery: It inspired Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Along with rarities from eastern Europe and rarely shown gems from Hollywood and Japan, the Berlinale retrospective also features some of the best-known classics of the genre. Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" from 1982 remains cult for any science-fiction fan and deserves to be seen on the big screen again.
Ditto for "Alien" (1979), which had the same director. New editions of "Blade Runner" and "Alien" will be soon be re-released in theaters - so the "Future Imperfect" retrospective of the 67th Berlinale is setting the tone for the upcoming season of movies.