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Surly with girly
At 65, Hartmut has had his life turned upside down; after 20 blissful years of marriage, his wife has left him for another man. Irritable, intolerant and hostile, his (totally platonic) flourishing relationship with six-year-old Hayat, an abandoned Turkish girl, is most unexpected.
United by feeling lost in the world and being unable to relate to those around them, they become an amusing twosome and even partners in (petty) crime. A solid bit of feeling uplifted by Hartmut’s Hayat-induced new lease on life and Türköglu’s endearing performance are Dreiviertelmond’s strong points.
Dreiviertelmond | Directed by Christian Zübert (Germany 2011) with Elmar Wepper, Mercan-Fatima Türköglu. Starts October 13
Though Christian Zübert defies and disputes many of Bavaria's less than flattering stereotypes, he does see a painfully detached and often bigoted world-view among the region’s elder generations.
In Dreiviertelmond, Zübert directs his unique version of the common tale of an unusual friendship – this time between an elderly Franconian man and a young Turkish girl. In the shadow of Thilo Sarrazin's attack on Germany's Ausländer, Zübert offers his contribution to the perennial debate, arguing that contrasting worlds can successfully merge and why in fact, 'the Germans are the ones at fault.'
Why did you choose to cast a Turkish girl as the one who teaches Hartmut to relish life again? Can Germans learn a lot from the country’s Ausländer?
Well, I feel some connection to Turkey as my wife is Turkish but the main reason was to incorporate a language barrier between the characters. Hayat can’t speak German while Hartmut knows no Turkish. I wanted them both to come from a culture in which they feel unsettled, or lost. Turkish friends of my wife who live here often say they feel foreign in both countries, torn between cultures. Hartmut feels unsure of where his life is going or where he belongs. This is finally the glue between the two characters.
Is there a Turkish problem in Germany?
Though there exist numerous issues on both sides, the problem lies mainly with the Germans. Immigrants to the UK or the USA, say, are accepted as Britons or Americans after a few years. Here, however, immigrants are continually made aware that they can stay for only five years and that they’re here only as foreign workers. They’re never given the opportunity to really feel German. Essentially, they come here and do our dirty work but are excluded from reaping the benefits.
Did the whole idea come from a bad taxi experience?
No, the idea stemmed from a particularly good experience in my private life in that I married a Turkish woman. My focus was never suposed to be taxi drivers but rather the broader issue of a generational opposition to the Turkish community in Germany. Hartmut (Elmar Wepper) is from Franconia which is where I’m from, too. People there tend to be very inward-looking, very reserved and fearful of anything non-German.
Does Hartmut represent your view of the stereotypical German taxi driver?
No, not really; the only reason the film boasts a taxi driver as its protagonist is because there needed to be a natural and credible way in which Hartmut and Hayat (Mercan Türkoglu) meet. Character-wise, he represents a mix of my father and grandfather who represent a generation of men who deal with the world in a very unique way. Though they like to give off an impression of arrogance and superiority, there exists both a personal and a worldly insecurity; these men have a perpetual fear of the unknown and this helps explain their low level of tolerance.
What do you think of Berlin taking the bronze for kick-ass taxi drivers in Germany?
The only experience I’ve really had with Berlin taxis is on the route to and from the airport but in comparison to other big cities in German, Berlin’s taxi drivers are awful! They swear, they shout; I’ve asked many a time for them to just stop talking. They’re often older, German guys. But even the younger ones, who admittedly are often not German, have poor orientation. I remember a nightmare journey here once; the driver claimed not to know how to get to my destination and gave me a map for me to direct him! Then, half-way into the journey, he asked if I could read aloud the road signs as his ‘eyesight was terrible.’ It was an absolute joke so I asked him to pull over and I flagged down another more capable driver.