As one of the few purveyors of magical realism in modern cinema, Belgian-born screenwriter/director Alain Berliner has blurred the lines between fantasy and reality to sometimes touching effect in such features as Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink, 1997) and Le Mur (The Wall, 1999). Though Berliner was at first drawn to a career as a film director while a student at Brussels' INSAS, his perceived lack of rapport with actors led him to focus more on screenwriting, while also working in various capacities for such TF1 productions as Les Galettes de Maimie (1991) and Monsieur Victor (1993). Berliner's screenplay for the hit Belgian comedy Koko Flanel found his ability to paint vivid and interesting characters developing nicely, but he would gravitate back behind the camera for the shorts Le Jour de Chat and Rose.
His affectionately offbeat sensibilities sharper than ever, Berliner next began work on the script that was also meant to serve as his feature directorial debut. That was not meant to be, however, since he was contacted by a French film executive who (based on the strength of Rose) saw Berliner as the ideal candidate to direct a screenplay about an effeminate young boy who dreams of growing up to become a woman. Berliner was struck by Chris Vander Stappen's script for Ma Vie en Rose, and the two were soon collaborating on revising the script in preparation for filming. Debuting in late March of 1997 to rave reviews from critics and overwhelmingly positive reactions from audiences, Ma Vie en Rose told a sensitive story in an original and compelling way. In addition to taking the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film, Ma Vie en Rose received recognition at the BAFTA Awards and the César Awards, and earned Berliner and Vander Stappen a Best Screenwriting award at that year's Eurpoean Film Awards. If Berliner had previously doubted his ability to coax winning performances from his actors, it seemed that his talents behind the camera had finally caught up with his writing skills.
It didn't take Berliner long to begin work on his feature follow-up, and in 1999, he wrote and directed the surrealistic comedy drama The Wall. In the unconventional tale, a man named Albert (Daniel Hanssens), who owns a take-out food restaurant, is shocked one day to find that a wall has been erected to separate the Flemish and French speaking populations -- and that it just happens to run right through the middle of his business. The film didn't perform quite as well as Berliner's previous effort, and the following year, he was back in the director's chair for the elliptical Demi Moore drama Passion of Mind (2000). A psychological drama that found Berliner eschewing writing duties, Passion of Mind detailed the split existence of a woman who yearns to bring her two lives together. An interesting concept that was generally faulted for weak execution, the film flew under the radar of worldwide audiences before making its stateside debut on home video. Back on the small screen, Berliner once again pulled double duty on the made-for-television drama La Maison du Canal (2003).