Exit Marrakech.

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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:

  1. You’re primarily looking for pretty visuals without a great deal of thought-provoking substance.
  2. You don’t mind trivial, even cliched cinematic choices.
  3. You have never, at any stage of your life, considered yourself a feminist.

Poster-ENGLISHTitle: Exit Marrakech

Year: 2013

Directed by: Caroline Link

Written by: Caroline Link

Country: Germany

Genre: Drama


Trailer:

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My father’s bike.

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Picture this: a grainy photo of a man and a child trudging up to the top of a ski slope. The man to keep his balance while grasping the hand of the little boy next to him. The boy struggles to keep pace, all the while goofing off, grinning cheekily at the camera. Us, the viewers, can make out a small smile on the older man’s face, even though the rest of it is blurry. It is obvious that the boy is nothing but trouble. The older man is my grandpa, the boy is my father, and this black-and-white glimpse into the past was taken in the early 1960s.

My dad has always said that even though my grandpa frequently took him on holiday, they never really got along. There was no real communication; my grandpa had his own world locked behind a door of masculine stoicism and my dad, despite looking, never found the key to open it.

Now, picture this: you want to create a film about the inner workings of the masculine mind. A film so sentimental you’ll use classical and jazz music; clichéd, yes, but eternal. A film so sentimental that you search for only the best actors to portray believable, occasionally volatile characters. Perhaps a road movie, universal in its familiar symbolism…so familiar that it could use a children’s bicycle.

Mój rower, or My Father’s Bike (2012) is a Piotr Trzaskalski film about men, that both men and women will appreciate. This classic road film is an allegorical story about growing up, but in a style lacking gratuitous action. The audience finds itself somewhere in rural Poland, following three main characters who are driving in the countryside. They’re not enjoying themselves; there’s an invisible, impermeable wall between the three generations of men in the car: a grandfather Włodek (played by Michał Urbaniak), Włodek’s son (Artur Żmijewski) and Włodek’s grandson (Krzysztof Chodorowski).

They are driven along by the car’s spinning wheels and by a mission–the three of them are looking for the woman who betrayed them all: Włodek’s wife, who has left him. Włodek is an undeniable drunk whose real talent lays in playing the clarinet. Throughout the film, the trio faces a whole host of obstacles: fights, reconciliations, and finally, a sort of peace. Sort of.

Men in this film embody the stereotypes of what it is to be essentially male, not only in Poland, but in the world over. They drink vodka, go fishing, swim in lakes, have confrontations…all in an attempt to cover up the mutual grievances that haunt them. Like real men, we can see their frustrations, anger, and ruthlessness. In the end, as in most road movies, we see hard-won harmony, acceptance, and communication. Michał Urbaniak received the prize for Best Actor at the Tallin Film Festival in Estonia. Commenting on the jury’s choice he said: “I promised to be honest.” And he was. Honest as hell.

My grandpa was honest, too. He passed away nearly four years ago, indirectly ensuring the door that separated him with my father would never be unlocked. However, that grainy photo still lingers. Despite the blurry visages, and the intimate history of the men in my family, the smiles still stand prominent, unfading. So maybe that’s all it takes? Maybe family support is built on the laughs we share while hiking up the hill?

You’ll enjoy this movie if:

1. you don’t care much about the Bechdel test   (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test).

2. you liked Shrek and/or Up (both about the characters transformations and their ‘roads’ towards emotional maturity).

3. you find drunken conversations in movies hilarious…no matter how hard you try not to.

my bikeTitle: My father’s bike (Mój rower)

Year: 2012

Directed by: Piotr Trzaskalski

Written by:  Piotr Trzaskalski, Wojciech Lepianka

Country: Poland

Genre: Drama / Comedy


Trailer: