Touch Me Not, a provocative film about sexuality and intimacy that features long stretches of graphic nudity, on Saturday won the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear for best film. Romanian director Adina Pintilie’s drama was a surprise pick by the Berlinale jury, headed by German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run).
The confident debut — which follows a fifty-something woman with intimacy issues who visits a call boy, sex therapist and even a bondage club as she explores her sexuality — was anything but a safe choice. In picking Touch Me Not over more crowd-pleasing titles such as Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs or Thomas Stuber’s romantic drama In the Aisle, the jury seemed keen to send a message about notions of beauty and diversity, appropriate for a festival that has been dominated by #MeToo-style discussions around power structures on- and offscreen in the film industry. Touch Me Not also picked up Berlin’s best first feature honor.
“We wanted to award prizes not just for what cinema can do and where it is, but where it could go in the future,” said Tykwer, explaining the jury’s decision.
Anderson won the Silver Bear for best director for his stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs, which opened this year’s Berlinale on Feb. 15 and was widely praised. The Japanese-set film follows Atari, a 12-year-old boy who sets out to rescue his dog and save canine-kind from a doggy genocide. Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Greta Gerwig are among the pic’s all-star voice cast.
Berlin’s Silver Bear Grand Jury prize, the fest’s runner-up honor, went to Mug, a tragicomedy from Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska about a man who faces small-town prejudice after he become’s Poland’s first recipient of a face transplant
Paraguayan drama The Heiresses earned two honors, taking home the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, named for the festival’s founder, as well as the best actress award for Ana Brun, who plays a middle-aged gay woman forced to re-engage with the world after her partner of many years is imprisoned. Director Marcelo Martinessi’s film, which he also wrote, won praise for its naturalistic performances and emotional heft.
Berlin’s best actor prize went to France’s Anthony Bajon for his starring role in Cedric Kahn’s The Prayer, in which he plays a young heroin addict who turns to prayer and a monastic lifestyle to fight his addiction.
Alonso Ruizpalacios and Manuel Alcala won best screenplay honors for their script to Ruizpalacios‘ crime drama Museum, which stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a hapless thief who carries out a daring robbery of priceless artifacts from Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology
And Alexey German Jr.’s Dovlatov, an intimate look at a week in the life of Russian novelist Sergei Dovlatov, picked up a Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution for Elena Okopnaya’s period costume design, which re-creates November 1971 in Leningrad.