As the Berlinale draws to a close this weekend, all bets are off as to who might take home the coveted Golden Bear. The last films in Competition have proven to be several of the strongest, with plenty of surprises among them.
Korean director Park Chan-wook's off-the-wall romantic comedy I'm a Cyborg, But that's OK (Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a) quickly emerged mid-festival as a quirky possibility. The film tells the story of the love affair between two inmates in a psychiatric hospital, one of whom thinks she's a robot (or cyborg).
Another late starter is Irina Palm, starring Marianne Faithful, a tragic comedy from Belgian director Sam Garbarski, about a middle-class London grandmother, Maggie (of course), who is forced take a job as a 'hostess' in the city's sex industry to help pay her sick grandson's medical bills.
Popular with audiences has been American actor-turned-director Robert De Niro's (above - sorry, the best I could do) The Good Shepherd, which tells a John Le Carre-style story about the early days of the US Central Intelligence Agency. Equally popular has been Vienna-born director Stefan Ruzowitzky's The Counterfeiters (Die Faelscher), which recounts the true story of a plot hatched by the Nazis to ruin the Allies economies by forcing Jewish prisoners to fake US and British bank notes.
Among the last films to open has been Desert Dream (Hyazgar) by Chinese-Korean director Zhang Lu, which is set in the hostile wasteland on the border between China and Mongolia. Another film set in Mongolia that may be the dark horse is the wonderful Tuya's Marriage (Tu ya de hun shi) by Chinese director Wang Quan'an.
At the end of the bill is legendary Czech director Jiri Menzel's I served the King of England, about a young man's rise through Czech society.
Every jury has a mind of it's own, so I wouldn't even hazard a guess with so many willful contenders in the running.