Realização: Feo Aladag
Intérpretes: Sibel Kekilli, Nizam Schiller, Derya Elabora, Settar Tanriogen, Serhad Can, Almila Bagriacik, Tamer Yigit, Alwara Höfels, Florian Lukas
ALEMANHA, cor, 119′, 2010
O tema do filme remete a histórias conhecidas dos noticiários – mas a realizadora, produtora e argumentista, Feo Aladag, consegue criar um retrato de família multifacetado, comovente e distante de clichês neste seu surpreendente filme de estreia, “A Estrangeira”, que foi candidato ao Óscar para Melhor Filme em Língua não Inglesa em 2011, em representação da Alemanha.
When Two Cultures Collide Under One Roof
“When We Leave,” the first feature written and directed by Feo Aladag, is a somber, sometimes powerful and frequently schematic drama about a woman trying to free herself from the emotional and physical violence of a cruel, patriarchal system. The violence is present from the very first shot, in which a young man (we will eventually learn that he is one of the main character’s brothers) points a gun at a woman walking with her child. What follows flashes back from that moment, tracing a path of brutality, oppression and stifled individuality leavened by a few glimmers of tenderness and grace.
Umay, played by the remarkable Turkish-German actress Sibel Kekilli, lives in Turkey with her young son, Cem (Nizam Schiller); her husband, Kemal (Ufuk Bayraktar); and Kemal’s family. Tired of Kemal’s abuse, she flees with Cem to Berlin, where she grew up and where her own family still lives. Here parents, brothers and sisters welcome her warmly, for the most part, but also warily, anxious that her flight has put both her honor and theirs in jeopardy.
“You belong to your husband,” says her father, Kader (Settar Tanriögen), who also tells her that the hands that beat her “are also the hands that soothe.”
This is hardly comforting. Worse is the response of Mehmet (Tamer Yigit), the older of Umay’s two brothers, whose temper is if anything more volatile than Kemal’s. He threatens her, tries to confine her in the family’s apartment and arranges to have Cem sent back to Turkey. When Umay learns of this plan, she calls the police, who take her and the boy to a women’s shelter, after which she tries to forge a life on her own.
Ms. Aladag, an Austrian-born actress with many film and television credits in that country, Germany and Britain, works in the quiet, stricken tones of modern socially conscious melodrama. Each scene makes its emotional and thematic point carefully, and builds into a solid, absorbing, conventional story, by which I mean that while there are twists and reversals in the plot, nothing really comes as a surprise.
And because everything that happens is intended to illuminate the problem that is Ms. Aladag’s main concern — the so-called honor killings of women in Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East — the behavior of the characters seems constricted. There is only intermittently a sense of how life is lived; only rules, obligations, heavy sighs and bitter contradictions.
What saves “When We Leave” from lapsing entirely into well-intentioned, punishing grimness is Ms. Aladag’s respect for physical space and for the complicated human presence of the actors. The apartment where Umay’s family lives is a fascinating amalgam of two homelands. She speaks mostly Turkish with her father, her mother and Mehmet, and German with her sister and younger brother. The atmosphere in the family’s home suggests both an aspiration to middle-class German respectability and some of the courtesy and formality that characterize traditional Anatolian society.
Ms. Kekilli, whose quiet charisma and fearless emotional command galvanized Fatih Akin’s “Head-On” — another, far more nuanced and disturbing drama of violence, desire and the collision of cultures — holds the film together even when the script pushes Umay in some unconvincing directions. A scene in which she crashes her sister’s wedding and makes a spectacle of herself is particularly dubious, given how hard Umay works to protect her dignity. But it is almost impossible, given the strength and conviction of Ms. Kekilli’s performance, to avoid being moved, even if, on reflection, the emotions do not entirely make sense.
The other outstanding performance in a film full of strong acting comes from Mr. Tanriögen, who does much to humanize what might have been a cipher of patriarchal domination. Kader, who works in a printing plant, is terrified of losing face and suffers at the thought of what Umay will do to his family’s reputation. But he is also a loving father trying, much as his daughter is, to find some workable common ground between them.
Failure is preordained, and “When We Leave” walks a delicate boundary between tragedy and a flimsier, easier form of pathos. It is frequently gripping and sincere in its intentions, but never quite as revelatory, or as devastating, as it should be.