When I was nineteen, I believed that gender was nothing more than a social construct. The physical, psychological, and social differences between men and women didn’t matter to me, despite the fact that these differences are obvious and undeniable. These ideas led me to adopt many feminist beliefs…and they also led me to several club parties where I stood in front of the women’s toilet asking the other girls in line to break the rules and use the men’s one. Ah, youth. Regardless of the implications of my actions and their actual effect on other people’s lives, I still believe in equality…an equality that has nothing to do with women no longer doing dishes and men refusing to help with heavy bags. Equality runs deeper than the actions behind them. I don’t care so much about deeds – I care about the state of mind of the people carrying them out, however vague that might sound.
Now, to a movie which made me very angry (for no apparent reason, on first glance). It’s a fairy tale-like father and son story about a journey, both literal and figurative. Caroline Link’s German ‘Exit Marrakech’ blinks and shines like fake-gold souvenirs you get at tourist stands. From a narrative standpoint, it’s light and spectator-friendly. It offers short-lasting comfort and easily accessible joy. It’s got loveable characters, including a slightly juvenile, incredibly talented father and his son, who, in a search for his own path, takes a crazy journey with a Moroccan prostitute. His father, previously absent in the teenager’s life, travels through beautiful landscapes and wide open spaces in order to find his son. This shared adventure changes both of them. They manage to find a path to reconciliation, and even the over-protective and slightly jealous mother cannot destroy it.
Everything is so easy, so heartwarming and so one-dimensional. Of course, Ben (Samuel Schneider) yells at his father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), smokes pot in front of him, and fools around with a prostitute. His father’s absent- minded observation of his child’s struggles is even somehow understandable and relatable. But then the pace speeds up, one thing leads to another, and in the last scene we see a perfect family picture taken on the Moroccan beach. Ben’s mother is conspicuously absent, of course, because she, as the unifying element of their infamous past, needs to get into a car and drive away. There is no room for her in this parade of forgiveness. She’s simply too real.
The reason why this movie got on my nerves so much isn’t the banality of the story. What I could accept in ‘My bike’ (which I wrote about last week), starts to annoy me in ‘Exit Marrakech’. It’s yet another road film about the mental journey towards maturity and a male-oriented generation gap. I’m pissed off because I don’t understand. I don’t get why Link, a female director, couldn’t make a movie about a mother and her daughter, thus offering a female perspective on this familiar story trope. Why couldn’t the girl run off with a warm-hearted male escort? Why couldn’t her mother drive through bleak, deserted places to find her child? Why, in cinema, do mother-daughter dilemnas always tend towards the negative, while men get to sunbathe and listen to the calming sound of the moving sea, even in movies made by women?
In the moments like this, I feel nineteen again. And for that I’m grateful, because it’s good to feel this ideological anger sometimes. Those impulses don’t have much of an impact, though, since ‘Exit Marrakech’ still tempts us with beautiful pictures that feed our desire for striking visuals. It also tricks us with one of life’s simple truths: it’s better to follow the pattern than to contradict it, even when it comes to a very universal story about the battle between parents and their children.
You’ll like this movie if:
- You’re primarily looking for pretty visuals without a great deal of thought-provoking substance.
- You don’t mind trivial, even cliched cinematic choices.
- You have never, at any stage of your life, considered yourself a feminist.
Directed by: Caroline Link
Written by: Caroline Link