• Meta

  • « | Home | »

    Tevfik Baser turns 60

    By admin | May 26, 2011

    Turkish-German filmmaker Tevfik Baser celebrated his 60th birthday at the beginning of this year. Here is a review by Ron Holloway of Baser’s second feature film Abschied von falschen Paradies (Farewell from a False Paradise) which first appeared in KINO – German Film 33 from 1989.

    A moving performance by Turkish actress Zuhal Olcay as Elif in Tevfik Baser’s Farewell from a False Paradise lifted this prison tale far above the usual. This is the story of a foreign alien, a shy and sensitive young mother of two small children placed behind bars for killing her husband.

    Upon entering with Elif the women’s prison in Hamburg, we become first aware of her agony over not being able to speak German – thus, her only avenue of human communication is through letters written in Turkish to her mother. From that point on, however, she gradually takes her fate into her own hands to emancipate herself, step by painful step, until the prison term is over.

    Baser’s second feature film can be viewed as the same story, in reverse, of his first: 40m² Deutschland (1986).  In that film, a Turkish woman is also kept imprisoned – by her husband in the couple’s small apartment until his sudden death, whereupon she is freed to venture out on the streets for the first time. This time, the same sensitive individual is liberated by her very detention in a prison cell of even smaller proportions than 40 Square Metres of Germany.

    Baser is a talented psychological director who can take seemingly cold facts and minor details to suggest, by nuance, a larger-than-life predicament that Elif will face beyond the present into the future. We never really know why she killed her husband, although judging by the reserved attitude of her brother (her husband’s best friend), she apparently had cause. And we don’t know if her brother’s family will return the children to her after she serves a five-year sentence. The message of the film may be simply that Elif, as an emancipated woman, should be able to meet and resolve these problems on her own when she gets out.

    How much Elif is really emancipated is also left up in the air.  True, she has made friends at the prison and won the respect of the woman attorney handling her case. But so much has now faded from her past that even the children appear to be momentarily forgotten in lieu of a budding romance with a male Turkish inmate across the prison courtyard. Her attempted suicide at the end also hints that knowledge can be as heavy a crucible to bear as deprivation of the spirit.

    Farewell from a False Paradise, the best German film on display in the official programme of the [1989] Berlinale (it received there a Special Screening), won the First Prize of the 17th  Strasbourg International Film Festival awarded by the city’s Human Rights Institute.

    Ronald Holloway

    Farewell from a False Paradise was nominated for the German Film Prize in 1989 and actress Zuhal Olcay received one in the category of Best Actress. The film was subsequently screened at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival in Un Certain Regard.

    Topics: Misc. | Comments Off on Tevfik Baser turns 60

    Comments are closed.