BERLIN – The 70th edition of the Berlin Film Festival opened on Thursday with Philippe Falardeau’s “My Salinger Year,” starring American actress Sigourney Weaver.
The film, screened out of competition at the festival, tells the story of withdrawn author JD Salinger based on Joanna Rakoff’s partly autobiographical novel.
Weaver plays the role of Margaret, a literary agent obsessed with preserving Salinger from any external interference, an “old-fashioned” woman, who protects an author who she idolizes and who “may not be a nice person,” Weaver said.
“But what I love about Margaret and the script is just that it is a love letter to the literary world, the old literary world of New York,” she added.
“It’s a very intimate film and I think that you really feel like you are part of that tiny group in that very outdated agency.”
French-Canadian film director Philippe Falardeau decided to write the first draft of the movie without reading any of Salinger’s works.
“I read him at 49 and most people read Salinger when they are young or in their adolescence years,” he said.
“I didn’t expect to like it and I liked it very much and probably way more than if I had read him in my teens. It was a revelation to me.”
American actress Margaret Qualley plays the role of Joanna, a young personal assistant who is in charge of reading, giving impersonal responses and later destroying the fan letters Salinger receives.
“The tough part was to make sure that the film was not about Salinger, but about the effect of a writer on a young woman and her journey to become a writer. He (Salinger) was more like a phantom presence over her,” Falardeau said.
In the Berlinale opening, Weaver has shared media attention with British actor and festival judge Jeremy Irons, whose team will choose the winning movie.
Once again, Irons distanced himself from his controversial past opinions about abortion and the #Metoo movement.
“Let me make my views entirely clear on these particular subjects once and for all,” he said.
“Firstly, I support wholeheartedly the global movement to address the inequality of women’s rights and to protect them from abusive, damaging and disrespectful harassment both at home and in the workplace.”
This year’s Berlin International Film Festival will show 340 films, among them Nata Meta’s “The Fugitive,” Sally Potter’s “The roads not taken,” starring Javier Bardem and Salma Hayek, Abel Ferrara’s “Siberia,” Caetano Gotardo and Marco Dutra’s “All the Dead Ones” and Mohammad Rasoulof’s “There is no Evil.”
British actress Hellen Mirren will receive the Honorary Golden Bear as a tribute for her career.