When we arrived in Berlin it was cold and buzzing with hype about a Nazis -in -space, wacky sci-fi comedy called ‘Iron Sky’ which seems to have become a cult film, even before going on general release. We spent the following four days in consummate self-indulgence, watching a kaleidoscope of films, eating crunchy schnitzel and drinking fabulous beer. Our hotel was well situated, within easy walking distance of all the popular sights and more importantly, very close to an extremely cosy ‘kneipe’ called ‘Stadtklause’ which had a warm and welcoming interior, with wood paneled walls and photographs of the of the once-magnificent Anhalter Bahnhof, located a short distance away. Having stumbled quite by chance upon this little gem on our return from seeing the wonderful ‘Jayne Mansfield’s Car’, we were disappointed to find that they had stopped serving food, so resigned ourselves to ordering a couple of beers. However, our genial host must have taken pity on us and surprised us with a laden plate of thickly sliced bread, gouda and cold meat.
The following evening we had been invited to ‘Joyful Reunion’, one of the 15 films about food and the environment, which were being shown at the 6th Culinary Cinema of the Berlinale, which too was followed by a meal, but this time prepared by a Michelin starred chef in a Spiegeltent across the road from the cinema. The red velvet curtains, antique wooden panels and a unique arrangement of mirrors provided a swanky atmosphere with clutches of tables, heavily laden with cutlery and glasses, sparkling in the candlelight which ricocheted off the mirrors around the room. Unfortunately, the meal, although tasty, was disappointingly meagre. However, our glasses were generously re-filled generously at regular intervals with a couple of interesting Rieslings. The end of the evening heralded the arrival of Dieter Kosslick, the charismatic artistic director of the festival, who greeted the cast of the film, seated at the adjoining table and after accompanying them to their courtesy cars, joined us with a couple of bottles of Pinot, until the early hours.
Our trip to Berlin allowed us to catch up with Mario Giordano, an old friend and writer whose work includes the book/screenplay of ‘Das Experiment‘ who, despite living in Hamburg, has Sicilian connections. He happened to be in Berlin for a meeting and we met at ‘Cafe Einstein’, where we had a light lunch, rounded off, at Mario’s insistence, with a rather delicious pancake.
The climax and the conclusion to the festival was our invitation to the awards ceremony. Nursing glasses of bubbly, we looked down upon the bustle of the red carpet, the jostling photographers and expectant faces of the public, straining to see who would alight from the gentle stream of BMW cars sweeping smoothly past, emptying their contents out to the hungry pack of photographers. Paolo & Vittorio Taviani received the Golden Bear for their ‘Caeser must die’, but the most endearing part of the ceremony was when Jake Gyllenhaal (Donny Darko) announced that the winner of the Silver Bear for best actress was Rachel Mwanza for ‘Rebelle’ (War Witch). She had clearly not heard or understood, as the ladies seated either side of her nudged and whispered to her, until she bounced up and down on her seat, clenching her fists in childish excitement and undisguised disbelief.
After the screening of the winning film, we joined the party, but after a couple of glasses of Reisling, we decided to disentangle ourselves from the swell of the crowd and escape in all our finery to our snug ‘kneipe’, where we brought our stay to an appropriate end with mouth-watering Schnitzel, potatoes and a thirst quenching beer.