Thursday, September 29, 2011

inscapes, escapes

The camera in 40 qm Deutschland, Tevfik Baser`s 1986 drama about a Turkish woman who accompanies her arranged husband to Germany, is at once the eyes and seeing mind of this nameless woman (Ozay Fecht). Somewhat in the genre of Charlotte Perkin`s Gilman`s ``The Yellow Wallpaper`` or Ingeborg Bachmann`s Malina, the film depicts the destructive interiority of the domestic space. The fascism of everyday relationships, a phrase which Bachmann uses to characterize the aggression of postwar relations, derives from the very palpable sense of confinement that is the condition of domestic labor. Georgio Agamben once told me that he had visited Bachmann`s apartment in Rome, and that it was like a little Vienna, a sequestered nostalgic shadow of a city within another. The model of this interior space is also Baser`s, and also that of Raul Ruiz, who depicts the sort of enclave-like existence of Chilean immigrants in Paris in 1974. In an interview with Ruiz from 2008 that is included in the 2010 restoration of the film, Percey Matas (Ruiz`s cameraman) first takes us through Ruiz`s family apartment (occupied by his mother until her death six months before the filming) in Santiago, Chile, which he describes as ``frozen in time,`` the lingering over kitschy nautical decor and knick-knacks, cut crystal goblets and fine serving dishes in glass cabinets. Like Ruiz`s film, Baser`s moves out of its interior on only several occasions, although the experience of confinement is not literalized. Baser follows the protagonist, this young wife, around the apartment, traces her sitting silently, looking out the window, catches her brief exchange of gestures with a little girl at a window across the way, and moves within her mind, in flashbacks, to her life in Turkey, and then slowly, reveals her unraveling mind, as dreams intrude on waking life, and hallucinations overwhelm. She is pregnant by this point; sex also a joyless, aggressive act, her feelings about the pregnancy evince this haunting aggression. She chops off the hair of a kitsch-like doll, the once she had used to communicate with the girl across the way, and the doll sits prominently on top of a dresser, the locks fallen around a little statuette of a mother and baby. Her husband`s joy over her pregnancy is as disturbing as the blankness with which he regards her and the state of imprisonment in which he keeps her. Her morbid fantasies about his death finally become real; his naked body lays between her and the outside, in front of the door. After sitting for some time in the apartment with his dead body, the last scene shows her pulling his legs to move away from the door. On the winding staircase down, she knocks on several doors, pleading in Turkish with old German people who look at her without understanding, before reaching large double doors to the outside, blinding light. In the end, the film figures escape as a radical expression--perhaps an inevitability--of heightened interiority, and it figures the sense of this inevitability as the condition of imprisonment.

picture: Ozay Fecht in 40qm Deutschland

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