Director: Fatih Akin
Starring: Nurgül Yesilçay, Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz , Hanna Schygulla, Patrycia Ziolkowska, Nursel Köse
UK Release date: 22 February 2008
Certificate: 18 (122 mins)
This film thoroughly deserves the applause given to it by its international critics. It celebrates the core of the human condition: the need for love, and begs for understanding despite our differences. We are forced to see the real world: a world where people die and innocent people are tangled in the evil that surrounds them.
Ali Aksu, an elderly, widowed and lonely Turk, living in Bremen, Germany, finds solace in the arms of Yeter, a prostitute. Ali invites Yeter to move in with him and provide him with her exclusive services. A turn of events brings Nejat, Ali’s son from Hamburg where he is a university professor, to his father’s house where he is introduced to Yeter. Initially, he is disapproving of Yeter but as they share meals and conversation he learns that she is using the money she is earning to send money to Turkey for her daughter Ayten’s university tuition. A dramatic and unfortunate turn of events leads Nejat back to Turkey in search of Ayten.
Ayten, a political activist, finds herself in deep waters with the authorities, owing to her protests and violent demonstrations, and flees to Germany in search of her mother. In Germany she meets Lotte, a college student; she befriends her and offers her refuge in her home. Lotte lives with her mother Susanne, who encourages her to follow the proper channels for refugees and file an asylum plea for Ayten. Meanwhile, she discovers that Ayten and Lotte are lovers, and after failed attempts at achieving refugee status, Ayten is deported to Turkey and arrested on arrival.
Lotte is forced to leave family and home in pursuit of preserving this newly-found love and seeking out justice. One event leads to a series of unfolding complexities and through a story replete with sadness. Nevertheless, the incredible determination and will of the human person to attain forgiveness and bring about reconciliation is what captured me in the end, ultimately leading to a deep joy – a joy not expressed in smiles and everlasting happiness, but rather, through learning from one’s mistakes and finding happiness with what’s left. It leaves the audience feeling as though this is real and can happen to anyone irrespective of background, colour, race, sexuality or creed.
Fatih Akin, the director of this beautiful film, is German of Turkish descent so she understands the political landscape and dynamic of the countries and this is evident in her bold move to shoot the film very plainly, without special effects and theatrics typical of successful box-office films. She conveys the characters’ struggle with ardent simplicity and is sensitive to both countries, careful of offending, and makes judgement on neither. The cinematography is what one reviewer (Derek Ellen of variety.com) referred to as, a “procedural style in … Swiss watch-like precision”. Frame-by-frame, scene-by-scene, I was completely able to immerse myself for two hours in the life, struggle and feelings of each character.
The script was well written, again by Akin, and translated, two-thirds of it in either German or Turkish, with English subtitles. It is unsurprising and deserving that it received the award for best screenplay at Cannes in 2007.
It is rare to watch a movie that has been left untainted and therefore vulnerable to criticism for imprecise editing, but Akin weaves the storyline together seamlessly, in words and visuals such that editing and filmatic correctness are secondary. I feel privileged as a passive observer, merely soaking myself in the complexity of each character and the real world they live in. There are no heroes, and she seeks to portray countries and people as equal, a plea for understanding and unity amongst diversity.
Ricardo Da Silva nSJ