Powerful Images and Colors
"Die Fremde" ("When we leave") began its triumphal progress in February 2010. The first feature film by Feo Aladag, it made such an impression at Berlin’s International Film Festival that a total of 120 other national and international festivals adopted it onto their programs. On six continents and in no less than 73 countries, viewers hoped and trembled with the film’s heroine played by Sibel Kekilli, a young German-Turkish woman who rebels against tradition while struggling for the love and loyalty of her family at the same time. They all together fail tragically. "It was the same everywhere: audiences felt empathy with the characters and were deeply moved by the story," says Feo Aladag when describing the international audience response.
However, there were local differences: "When I showed the film in Pakistan, the country with the highest number of honor crimes at the time according to UN statistics, the discussions and topics were naturally different to those in the USA or France." "Die Fremde" (When we leave") also created a sensation in Turkey, where the distribution rights had already been sold even before its premiere at the Berlinale. "There, the film was launched with more copies than in Germany," the filmmaker reports. "It was particularly gratifying that it was not only shown in the big cities but also in rural areas." Overall, Aladag notes, "there was an over whelming international echo!"
Not a bad summing up for a quiet drama, which deals with its central dilemma – the clash between family constrictions and individual self-realization – in a very differentiated way, remaining free of clichés. "It is a story in which no one is morally judged, although we are able to follow emotionally the limitations and conflicts, and the associated tragedy for all the characters," says Aladag, who was behind the film as director, author and producer in one person. It offers an inside view "beyond media prejudices and social role images, as well as racist condemnation," and its aim is not to give simple answers to difficult questions but to generate empathy. The characters feel torn and this should be "emotionally tangible for the viewers." Aladag succeeds so convincingly that one German film critic even compared "Die Fremde" ("When we leave") to classic dramas about women à la Fontane’s "Effi Briest": world literature!
Not quite, Feo Aladag counters: the film tells "a story of missed opportunity for mutual approaches. For a long time beforehand, I had done research for the campaign' against Women' run by Amnesty International, for which I had written and directed spots, and these themes just kept on haunting me."
Aladag took a long run-up to this film – "Die Fremde" ("When we leave") is an astonishingly mature, unusually complete debut film, revealing the experience that its director collected for many years as an actor, author and commercial filmmaker. The look is absolutely spectacular: clever compositions, elegant camera tracking, and the courage to create big images turn it into a visual event – and Aladag into a filmmaker who not only works with heart and soul but also demonstrates a well-schooled eye.
"While I was writing the screenplay, I knew already that I wanted to reflect my characters’ inner worlds on a formal level as well. The sense of being torn inside, the contrasts – light/dark, sharp/blurred – and the visual rhythm formed the basis for a coherent realization of the story. The aim was to get tangibly close to the characters’ inner lives and conflicts – to become immersed in an inner perspective that may also be painful."
The film was shot on slightly rough-grain SUPER 35 3perfformat. Aladag: "The choice of format and its somewhat raw surface quality was part of the concept from the beginning, just like a clear idea of the colors – the color patterns and spectrums of the film. When I write I already have a strong sense of the future realization, I see images and colors very powerfully."
There is a need for some freedom to entertain such a concrete vision; Aladag created this in 2005 by founding the film production company Independent Artists, based in Berlin. "Die Fremde" ("When we leave") was its first project. She does not view artistic pretensions and commercial orientation as opposites but as two sides of one and the same coin. Overall, Feo Aladag believes, "Sometimes German film could and should just be a bit more courageous. We should never forget that cinema films are not made exclusively to satisfy the viewers’ needs but are a creative process first and foremost. Occasionally, it seems as if far too many instances want to get a word in, always seeking to influence things. This means that a director rarely has the freedom to plan the creative process of production and therefore the film itself exactly as he or she wants to."
Which makes it even better when someone succeeds in using this freedom now and then.
Author: Frank Schnelle
Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH