Peter von Kant – Berlinale opening review
Peter von Kant is a successful film director. He lives with his assistant Karl, whom he likes to mistreat and humiliate. Kark never speaks, he only follows the orders of his master. Sidonie is the great actor who was his muse for many years. She introduces him to Amir, a handsome young man of modest means. Peter falls in love with Amir on the spot and offers to share his apartment with him and help him break into the film industry. The plan works, but as soon as he acquires fame, Amir breaks up with Peter, leaving him alone to face his demons.
This new film by Francois Ozon, is the Berlinale 2022 opening film and the same time part of the 18-film shortened competition this year. The film is loosely adapted from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, with Petra becoming Peter and the amazing Denis Ménochet, depicting with sarcasm, authenticity and despair the famous director. The film is a try to analyze fame and success and it’s effect to the persona of the main character. Money is not a matter for Peter, he has everything he wants, but money cannot buy him love, to free him from his endless loneliness. Successful films come and go, Festival premieres, magazine covers and interviews, and in the center his turbulent relationship with his new muse. The retrospective of their relationship is given through four acts, each one from a different part of their relationship, from the first meeting to the bitter break-up. The setting: Peter’s apartment is the theater stage of the film, with almost everything happening there, a choice that probably made everything simpler due to the current pandemic, but at times makes the film look too much like a play.
Ozon wants challenges himself by changing the gender of the main character, in contrast to his source material, but the film is a proof that genders are not really important in modern cinema and art in general. Peter, Petra, man woman and their male or female interests, are not that important as the story and its goals. Fame and money are just the reason for the films ultimate goal, to explore the nature of human relations and the possessive nature of the man to his companion and the artist to his muse. The possessive behavior is ultimately transforming to obsession that clouds Peter’s views and talent and make him into a cry-baby with no respect for the others, ultimately destroying what he has, metaphorically but also literally on the last act of the film.
Denis Ménochet shines in the leading role, with Stéfan Crépon as the heartbroken assistant, and Khalil Gharbia as Amir being also delights to the film. Hanna Schygulla, who plays the mother, is the connecting link with Fassbinder’s work, as she is the original Petra von Kant.