BERLIN (AP) — The Berlin International Film Festival kicked off Thursday with the first of 19 contenders for the event's top Golden Bear honor, a new movie starring Juliette Binoche as the wife of an Arctic explorer.
The premiere of "Nobody Wants the Night," directed by Isabel Coixet, set in 1908 and starring Binoche as Josephine Peary, kicks off a typically varied competition at this year's first major European film festival.
Rivals include Terrence Mallick's new "Knight of Cups," starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman; Werner Herzog's "Queen of the Desert," with Nicole Kidman and James Franco; and films from Vietnam, Guatemala and Romania.
Set in Greenland, the opening film gets the festival off to a chilly start — though all isn't what it seems.
NOT SO COLD
Binoche plays the wife of Arctic explorer Robert Peary, heading off in pursuit of her husband as he seeks a route to the North Pole — and ignoring warnings about the onset of winter.
The French actress said the film team had only 10 days in genuinely cold Norway.
"The rest of it was all studio — in Tenerife in June, with fur," she told reporters. But, she insisted, "I felt the cold as well ... we have the capacity with our imagination to create chills. The magic, I found out while we were shooting, is that the imagination makes you believe that it's true."
Spanish director Coixet, whose previous films include "Elegy" and "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," sighed at questions about the opening movie's combination of strong women — the director herself, Binoche and Rinko Kikuchi, who plays a young Inuit woman.
"We talk about gender? We have to? It's so boring," she said.
Still, she offered her thoughts on how to get ahead in a male-dominated industry:
"I'm very stubborn. I'm able to sacrifice lots of things," she said. Making movies is "a road paved with stones," she said. "As a woman, as a director, what I want is not a road with no stones. The only thing I want is the same stones a male director has."
WHO WILL BE THE JUDGE?
The seven-member festival jury is headed by American director Darren Aronofsky ("Noah," ''Black Swan," ''The Wrestler").
Winners of the Golden Bear are notoriously difficult to predict, though they are often less-heralded productions: last year's prize, in a field that included Oscar contenders "Boyhood" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel," went to Chinese director Diao Yinan's "Black Coal, Thin Ice."
Aronofsky said "festival competitions are such a strange thing, because they are so subjective." They "bring attention to films that sometimes have a hard time creating a space in today's insane world," he said.
NO WOUNDED EGOS
Fellow juror Audrey Tautou ("Amelie") said she isn't worried about anyone feeling hurt by the jury's choices, even if not everyone follows her own example.
"I didn't stop smoking, but I stopped reading critics, so I don't know how it feels any more to have bad reviews," she said.
Seriously, though, she said the jury will only be voting for and not against productions.
"There is nothing which could be painful," she said.