EXBERLINER's Anja Wiest and Critic.de's Frédéric Jaeger lock horns over Feo Aladag's controversial directorial debut, When We Leave (Die Fremde).
Feo Aladag’s directing debut, a depiction of a young Turkish woman’s attempt to break free from the restrictions imposed by her traditional Muslim family and lead a life of her own choosing, reveals the tragic truth that love cannot always conquer social boundaries.
Twenty-five-year-old Umay (Kekilli) escapes from Istanbul and her abusive husband with her son Cem in the hope of finding shelter and a new life with her relatives in Berlin. However, the rules of her conservative Muslim community stand in the way of her independence and her actions bring shame upon her family. Kekilli delivers a gripping, heartwrenching interpretation of Umay’s fight for the understanding of her family in the face of the pressures and dictates of their environment.
As the conflict builds, one of the things the film does best is to portray both sides with empathy in an impressive (and successful) attempt at remaining unbiased. The family’s love for their daughter is obvious despite the difficult decision they have to make, and Umay condemns the dogmatic rules while remaining true to the people who follow them. Aladag delivers a powerful, cliché-free statement about the tragic and antiquated practice of ‘honour’ crimes./AW
How can one be against a movie denouncing ‘honour’ killings? Well, a film shouldn’t by judged by its topic. At last month’s Berlinale, Die Fremde hit a sensitive chord because of its all-too-topical subject matter and the way it shamelessly dramatizes a sincerely horrific situation. But there isn’t anything sincere about this movie. The manipulative way it tells its story begins with the first frame and ends with the last one.
First-time director, producer and scriptwriter Feo Aladag likes bright colors and stark contrasts, and she isn’t afraid of using slowmotion to emphasize the tragedy of her protagonist. Viewers are pressed to SUFFER WITH HER! in bold capital letters and with an exclamation mark. But this is counterproductive: while the slick pictures – the never-ending symbols and platitudes – offer an easy way into the narrative, they soon distance the viewer from the character. And therein lies the real tragedy: a film which ruins its assets – chiefly an outstanding performance by Sibel Kekilli. Her rending of Umay’s predicament is subtle and three-dimensional.
If only Die Fremde didn’t try to shove its message down our throats, with melodramatic strings and a sad recurring piano melody; in the end, the movie is so fond of itself it seems to gloat over the young woman’s suffering. The result is morally questionable and leaves a very bitter aftertaste./FJ, www.critic.de
WHEN WE LEAVE (DIE FREMDE) (Germany 2009) Directed by Feo Aladag with Sibel Kekilli, Florian Lukas, Derya Alabora, Tamer Yigit. Starts March 11