The 62nd Berlin film festival kicked off Thursday night as cold spell gripped the Europe. Within the cinema, however, the atmosphere was much warmer with the opening movie "Farewell My Queen" recalling the burning days of the French Revolution.
The movie, by French director Benoit Jacquot and starring German-born actress Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette, portrays the last couple of days at the Versailles palace before the 1789 revolution through the eyes of a servant of the Queen.
Jacquot's film underlines a key theme of this year's festival-- people's life and love in an era of immense social and political change, drawing a parallel with current situations in the Middle East and the Occupy movement calling for economic equality and reforms on capitalism, said festival director Dieter Kosslick.
The French drama will go along with other 17 movies, all of them being world premieres, to strive for the top award Golden Bear prize in the main competition of the festival over the next 10 days.
Kosslick said that a total 400 movies are to be screened in different sections, including Competition, Panorama, Children's film fest, Generation and Retrospective of the film festival,also known as "Berlinale",
Ranking with Cannes and Venice as the top three European film festivals, Berlinale is trying to be distinct and cutting edge faced with squeezing force from influential Hollywood and strong rival festivals in North America, such as Sundance and Toronto fests.
"Our programme is an invitation to discover lesser known regions of the world," Kosslick said earlier in a statement. "For instance Africa, an almost forgotten continent in film, is depicted in 'Tey' by Alain Gomis from Senegal."
The festival also embraces short stories, documentaries and experimental works of unknown talents and young directors, hoping to set a stage for them to earn a global fame, organizers said.
Chinese director Wang Quan'an will present his latest film "White Deer Plain" in the main competition, vying for the top award for the third time, after his winning a Gold Bear in 2007 and a Sliver Bear in 2010.
Wang's movie, which is more than three hours long, depicts twists and turns of two major families in a village of Shanxi Province over half a century before 1949, based on a controversial and prize-winning eponymous novel by Chinese outstanding writer Chen Zhongshi.
Chinese leading director Zhang Yimou also returns to Berlinale with his new work "Jin ling Shi San Chai" (The Flowers of War), starring Christian Bale and Ni Ni, which sets around the 1937 Nanjing massacre during the China-Japan war. The film is to be screened out of competition.
Directed by Tsui Hark from Hongkong, "Long Men Fei Jia" (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) is another Chinese movie in the main competition, but it is also only for screening. The story brings audience back to the Ming Dynasty of China over 400 years ago. Shot in 3D, the film portrays two Chinese folk tales about flying swords, magic power and a romantic love story.
The festival's eight-member jury is leading by British film director Mike Leigh, one protagonist of the New British cinema movement. In the jury is also Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose family drama "Nader and Simin: A Separation" won the Golden Bear in 2011 and collected a Golden Globe and two Oscar nominations later in the year.
Hollywood heavyweights Meryl Streep will receive an honorary Golden Bear for her lifetime achievement in the Berlinale, with her latest movie "The Iron Lady", a biopic of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, being screened in the festival's special section.
Angelina Jolie, Uma Thurman, Robert Pattinson and Antonio Banderas is also to present their new films in the Berlin festival, which is usually the first major one in Europe every year and plays as a weather vane for the global film industry.