Berlinale opening film explores #Metoo questions of power and control

72nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin
Director Francois Ozon, and cast members Denis Menochet and Khalil Gharbia attend a photo call to promote the movie "Peter von Kant" at the 72nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

February 11, 2022

By Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) – French director Francois Ozon’s “Peter von Kant” — a film about a director’s possessive relationship with a young actor — explores the power directors hold over actors: a question that resonates strongly in the #MeToo era, Ozon said.

In the film, which premiered at Thursday’s opening of this year’s Berlin film festival, Ozon said he aimed to pose these questions to directors and the audience, four years after the #MeToo movement shook the film industry around the world.

“There is something universal … with all these questions about control, manipulation, and relationships of domination,” Ozon told a news conference.

“As a director, we are obliged to ask ourselves these questions because we are in a position of power,” Ozon said.

The #MeToo movement, sparked in 2017 by accusations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, prompted hundreds of actors to speak about harassment and assault by powerful filmmakers.

“Peter von Kant,” a remake of the 1972 German movie “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”, shows a prominent film director falling in love with “Amir”, a much younger man from a poor family. It stars Denis Menochet and Isabelle Adjani.

Von Kant seduces Amir with Champagne and the promise of fame, until the young man’s sudden career success turns the tables on his possessive patron.

Ozon said he wanted to show how love shifts power relations.

“It makes things much more ambiguous because things are not binary, I think, in his work and love relationships,” Ozon said.

Ozon said it was the pandemic that brought the 50-year-old original to mind: since that film was set almost exclusively within the claustrophobic confines of one apartment, it would be easy to square with the coronavirus regulations in force when he made his movie.

The film is among those competing for the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear, to be awarded next Wednesday.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; and Jonathan Oatis)