This Year, the Berlin Film Festival Sparkles

In February, when the Berlin International Film Festival takes place, the German capital is reliably what meteorologists term “bloody cold.” The overriding fashion aesthetic is puffer jackets, the puffier the better, accessorized with a scarf and a scowl.

That might be one reason that, contrary to other major European festivals in Venice or Cannes, the Berlinale, as it’s also known, has never acquired much of a reputation for glamour: One can’t expect too many stars to hazard shoulder-frostbite in red-carpet gowns, especially as Oscar night looms in a couple of weeks.

But this year’s festival, which runs through Sunday, feels a little different. Call it the trickle-down effect of appointing Kristen Stewart — whose effortless, dressed-down cool and sulky, up-all-night charisma make her very much the Berlin of American movie stars — as the jury president. Or perhaps it’s the result of Steven Spielberg being in town to receive an honorary lifetime achievement award presented by Bono, or the fashionably late arrival of Cate Blanchett, alongside her German co-star Nina Hoss and the director Todd Field, to toast the German premiere of “Tár.”

Most probably it’s the rising tide of an unusually strong of lineup — which has scattered high-profile titles among debuts, documentaries and world-cinema darlings — that has lifted all ships. After an online festival in 2021, and a restricted, in-person 2022 edition, the Berlinale Bear has fully emerged from pandemic hibernation ‌‌this year, set to dazzle its attendees, however bulky their outerwear.

Kristen Stewart, the jury president for the film festival, on the Berlinale red carpet.Credit…Ronny Hartmann/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It’s a tricky line to walk, including starrier U.S. titles without seeming to be pandering. But not even the snobbiest cinephile could grumble at the selection of the American director Tina Satter’s “Reality,” based on her Off Broadway play “Is This a Room?” and starring a de-glammed, deeply convincing Sydney Sweeney as the whistle-blower Reality Winner. Using dialogue exclusively taken from an F.B.I. transcript, it is a gripping look at the mechanisms of state power brought to bear on an individual; every sniff, every pause and every non sequitur, culled from the original ‌recording, somehow highlight just how unreal reality can be.‌

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