Ten Films to See at The Berlin Film Festival

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Love Lies Bleeding (2024)
Love Lies Bleeding, 2024(Film still)

From a star turn by Kristen Stewart in queer thriller Love Lies Bleeding to Cillian Murphy’s latest film, here are our picks from the 2024 Berlinale

The days of the dirt-cheap Airbnb are over in Berlin, which is grappling, like countless major cities, with gentrification, soaring rent and inflation. But if an extra reason is needed to decamp to the German capital in February when it’s draped in mid-winter grey, the Berlin International Film Festival is a persuasive one. A key event on the European film industry’s calendar, it launches some of the year’s most exciting releases. Venues include the modernist Kino International, a legendary cinema still decked out in its original decor and crystal chandeliers, from when the city was divided in two.

With a wide-ranging Berlinale programme to come, here are a few of our picks for this year’s edition.

Love Lies Bleeding  

Love Lies Bleeding promises to be another raging journey into obsession and extreme behaviour from British director Rose Glass, whose debut psychological horror Saint Maud (2019), about a religious carer fixated on her patient, was as electrifying and unhinged as it was critically acclaimed. Former AnOther Magazine cover star Kristen Stewart stars as Lou, a gym manager who falls for Jackie (Katy O’Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder passing through town on her way to Las Vegas to chase her dream. Desire and violent revenge are on the table, as Lou’s family crime-world connections come into play. The film is fresh from premiering at Sundance, where it was hailed as a risk-taking work that will divide people.

A Traveller’s Needs

Prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo is famed for his amusing, improvisational films of chance encounters, hook-ups and misunderstandings, which inevitably include one or two drinking sessions in which soju or makgeolli loosen inhibitions and add to the delight in off-piste absurdity. Actress Isabelle Huppert, the queen of portraying prickly and morally ambiguous women, is on board for A Traveller’s Needs, a reflection on ambition, affectation and authenticity, in her third collaboration with the director. She plays an untrained, private French teacher with decidedly experimental methods, who just might be able to make a living in Seoul from her racket – and some new friends or enemies.

Read AnOther’s guide to the films of Hong Sang-soo here

I’m Not Everything I Want to Be

“The camera is a navigation tool, it helps me come back to myself,” Czech photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková has said of her diaristic image-making. In the spirit of Nan Goldin, Jarcovjáková captured raw and spontaneous, intensely personal moments of her daily life in Prague. She took pictures on the night shift of the printing house she worked in, and in T-Club, the underground gay bar where she was a regular in the 80s, a pocket of clandestine freedom in a communist Czechoslovakia where any sign of difference was subject to heavy-handed repression. Klára Tasovská’s I’m Not Everything I Want to Be documents Jarcovjáková’s life through her work to date, including stints in Tokyo (as a commercial fashion photographer) and West Berlin (her passage secured by a sham marriage), as she tried to make sense of her place within the strangeness of society, and outside the margins of convention.


Levan Akin’s previous film And Then We Danced (2019) – about a gay romance in a traditional dance troupe in Tbilisi – became a global festival hit, even as it sparked rioting from ultra-conservative factions in Georgia. Now the Swedish-Georgian director has a new feature, Crossing, a road movie which will have its world premiere at the Berlinale. Lia, a retired teacher travels from the Georgian port city of Batumi to the Turkish capital of Istanbul to fulfil a promise by tracking down her niece, Tekla, who has long been off the grid from any family contact. An encounter with a trans rights lawyer, Evrim, might provide her with the key to solving the disappearance.


French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop won widespread acclaim, and the Grand Prix at Cannes, for her feature debut Atlantics (2019). A melancholic, supernatural tale of ghosts returned from drowning at sea, it was also a damning indictment of the economic exploitation of migrant desperation. The director turns toward documentary for her latest film Dahomey, which will have its world premiere in the Berlinale’s main competition. It deals with the return of thrones, sacred altars and other royal artefacts after more than a century to the Republic of Benin, items that were plundered by French troops during the colonial era, when the West African country was called the Kingdom of Dahomey.

The Outrun

Saoirse Ronan commits to an emotionally intense performance in The Outrun as Rona, a young woman whose life and live-in relationship have fallen apart in the chaotic stranglehold of her alcohol use disorder, and a pattern of alarming nights out she struggles to recall. Fresh out of rehab and desperate to maintain her sobriety, she decamps to an isolated house on the Orkney islands off the coast of Scotland with little more than a wood-burner and a sketchy wifi connection to help her pass the wind-battered nights. The stark and downbeat film, adapted from a memoir by Amy Liptrot and helmed by German director Nora Fingscheidt, shows nothing is easy about addiction or healing. Trying to regain a sense of who she is, and how to find meaning in her future, Rona slowly connects with the locals and nature, and begins to make sense of an insecure family past dominated by her father’s mental health issues.

Sasquatch Sunset

Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg abandon Hollywood glamour and don a whole lot of extra body hair for their starring roles in Sasquatch Sunset, an absurdist window into the daily routines of a family of yetis – grunting, body fluids, psilocybin mushrooms and all – in the North American wilderness. The feature is directed by the Zellner brothers David and Nathan, who have been obsessed with the legend of Bigfoot since they were kids. They take joy in decimating polite decorum, before a turn into more melancholy terrain as it hits home that the forest habitat is drastically decreasing, and pumas are not the biggest threat the yetis face. The film channels sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes, as it questions how advanced human beings are.

Small Things Like These

The Berlinale opening film, Small Things Like These, is directed by Tim Mielants and stars Cillian Murphy, who previously worked together on Peaky Blinders. Adapted from a novella of the same name by Irish writer Claire Keegan, a work of sensitive power which won the Orwell Prize for political fiction, it confronts the dark historical realities of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries, monastic institutions run by the Catholic church to confine so-called ‘fallen women’, who were used as a free workforce there and subject to brutal treatment. Murphy plays Bill, a coal dealer in County Wexford who, at Christmas in 1985, discovers shocking truths about the local convent that had been kept hidden by the town.


The hippo is set to be the spirit animal of this Berlinale edition, and Pepe by Dominican director Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias the breakout hit. The phantasmagorically bananas and poetically absurd charmer, which will have its world premiere in the main competition, is narrated by the ghost of one of the mega-sized semiaquatic creatures, as it haunts the moonlit nights of the jungle of Colombia and its rivers. Locals mythologise the unknown dangers of the water; tourists want to exoticise and photograph them. But no predator is as treacherous and deadly as the two-legged coloniser, a being that even claims false authority over the stories of the beasts of the natural world.

The Devil’s Bath

Austrian directing duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, whose previous films include the psychological horror Goodnight Mommy (2014), are experts in cultivating visceral dread. Their latest feature, which has its world premiere at the Berlinale, delves into a little-known ghastly chapter of European history, concerning patriarchal oppression, rituals and religiosity. In 18th-century Austria, desperate women used an inventive loophole to get around church doctrine and avoid going to hell when they died. Deep in the forest, a newlywed woman grapples with an unsatisfying marriage and a mental health crisis with little support, seeking spiritual solace via drastic measures familiar to the village but repressed as taboo knowledge.

The Berlin Film Festival runs from 15 – 25 February 2024.