Saturday, September 10, 2011

I had the best Friday night date…

…with myself.

I’ll be working on school projects all weekend, but decided to give myself a night off. While there’s always a mad party to be found in Cape Town, I knew I really wanted some quality alone time.

Splurged on R2 (oh let’s call that 15 US cents) at a beloved craft shop on Kloof Street. Because when the going gets tough, the tough get crafty.

I think I'll take a few breaks this weekend to make some recycled-paper notebooks...

The craft store is in the same mall as the Labia Theatre on Kloof, so I got a mocha and then popped in. I’ve seen half the films on the indie circuit already—The Bang Bang Club and Tamara Drewe—and boohoo, my life is so hard, I cry into my pillow every night about seeing too many art house flicks.

I’ve had mixed luck picking a foreign-language movie at the last minute, but Angst essen Seele auf (“Fear eats the soul”) was a good choice. I loved being in a theatre filled with many different languages, and liked to hear the different voices fill up the theatre before the film began rolling.

This is an older film, and the viewing was sponsored by Cape Town’s German Language Learning Centre—going to have to research their events some more…

The film begins with the meeting of two strangers, who soon form an unlikely couple. Though one character is a German national and one an immigrant from Morocco, they share a sense of social isolation in 1970s Munich. Age, income, language, and soul-sapping working class jobs make them lonely, but the outright hostility they face as a couple is most painful to watch.

It's fascinating to see this relationship develop, usually within long, lingering shots of shared coffee at a modest kitchen table.  There is always something to negotiate—Emmi, the German woman, slowly creeps back into old relationships after being disowned by everyone in her life for marrying Ali, but to do so she must gossip about other women at work (though she was the center of that gossip only minutes before) or show off her decades-younger husband like a prime piece of meat, or worse. (Her friends marvel at how clean Ali is—they’d been led to believe that immigrants never washed. Emmi is only too proud to describe his daily hygiene routines.)

I was on the edge of my seat at the more open moments of racism—I expected a fight to break out, or acts of vandalism to unfold. But as the title suggests, the most violence happens in (or to) the souls of the characters. What is this unconventional couple (language barrier, cultural differences, age gap, to name a few) willing to give up to be together? Friends? Children? Co-workers? Neighbours? Though they blithely enter into a union (on the day of their courthouse marriage, they dine in Hitler’s favourite restaurant), it is soon undeniable that ignoring the problems they face will not make them go away.

It’s a lot to think about. There was some stunning camerawork by Rainer Werner Fassbiner, and the dramatic scenes are heightened by the viewer’s self-consciousness. The audience watches Ali and Emmi from a room away, with open doors in the shots for us to peer into. We’re the voyeurs, we’re the nosy neighbours.

Does that sound unsettling? It is, but this is how I unwind. Going back to the grind of editing one paper and starting another now, but I feel creative now, and hopeful.

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