The annual Berlin film festival opened Thursday with “The International,” a thriller from German director Tom Tykwer centering on an Interpol agent’s pursuit of a powerful bank’s illicit activities.
“The International” is one of 17 movies making their world debuts in the main competition in Berlin. The event, now in its 59th year, is the first of the year’s major European festivals.
Tykwer, best known for “Run Lola Run” and “Perfume,” insisted it was only a coincidence that his latest movie — six years in the making — was having its premiere during the international financial crisis. He said he was excited by “the idea of the bank representing the villain in a paranoia thriller genre movie.”
The film stars Clive Owen as Louis Salinger, the movie’s agent hero, and Naomi Watts as a New York district attorney who joins him in tracing the flow of terrorist financing. Owen said his character “literally travels the whole world in pursuit of this bank and trying to bring them down.”
Tykwer said at a news conference, “The subject of the film is a system and a principle on which our form of society … has been built, that was generated by a certain kind of idea about the exchange of goods and which we are now beginning to question a little.”
“The International” is showing out of competition. The 18 films competing for the top Golden Bear award range from offerings by Iranian and Peruvian directors to new movies starring Renee Zellweger, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench and others.
A seven-member jury under British actress Tilda Swinton will announce the winner on Feb. 14.
Swinton was offering no hints as to any favorites.
“My expectations are to have absolutely no expectations,” she said.
Festival director Dieter Kosslick has said he does not expect the global economic crisis to have any direct effect on the Berlin event, which traditionally falls short of its counterparts in Cannes and Venice in terms of star power but prides itself on being accessible to the public.
The top honors often go to less-heralded productions, such as 2007 winner, “Tuya’s Marriage,” from Chinese director Wang Quan’an.
Last year’s Golden Bear went to “Elite Squad” by Brazilian director Jose Padilha.