Monday, March 21, 2011

Goody Two-Shoes Sees Double

Im Juli (In July) 2000 Germany (96 minutes) written and directed by Fatih Akin.
Akin said in an interview that he modeled this film on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the mother of modern romantic comedy.
The result is an entertainingly eccentric road movie across central Europe, with the open road from Hamburg and Istanbul—and some tricky border crossings in between—as an enchanted forest filled with fairies, hobgoblins and madcap adventure on the way to true love.
To start with, Daniel Bannier (Moritz Bleibtreu), a young man in the middle of nowhere with only the clothes on his back, manages to get a ride with Isa (Mehmet Kurtuluş), a young man with a dead body in the trunk of his car. With a long but unspecified car ride ahead, Daniel relates the events which got him where the two met.
Daniel is a nerdy single student teacher of physics at a Hamburg high school on summer break. He meets Juli (Christiane Paul), a free spirit with blonde corn rows, a lovely face and an infectiously happy smile, at a street market in Hamburg where she sells New Age trinkets with a friend.
Having decided that Daniel is the man for her, Juli sells Daniel a silver ring with an image of the sun. She tells him that the ring will bring him luck and that he will meet a woman wearing the same image who ‘is destined to bring him happiness’. Juli invites him to hear music with her that evening, but despite her attempt to be the woman of his destiny, Daniel first runs into the beautiful Melek (Idil Üner—‘melek’is Turkish for angel), in town briefly from Berlin on her way to Istanbul.
Daniel spends the rest of the evening into the night walking around the Hamburg talking with Melek, puts her up for the night at his apartment, and comes away from taking her to the airport the next day thinking that he has a date to meet her in less than a week near the bridge over the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Against his rational, rules-following character, Daniel resolves to drive in a car a neighbor serendipitously has loaned him to Istanbul to meet her.
Juli, disappointed to have missed Daniel the night before, decides to hitch a ride out of town to wherever the first driver who stops is going. In the context of this story, that driver of course could be no one other than Daniel.
The car breaks down in southern Germany, but the couple’s resourcefulness (along with her winning smile, Juli can hotwire cars), aided by chance encounters along the way as though placed by a higher power, keep them moving toward their destination.
A Puckish truckdriver named Leo (Jochen Nickel) gives the couple a lift and treats Daniel’s love blindness by making him lose his eyeglasses in a bar fight; the wildly unpredictable and beautiful Luna (Branka Katic), fairy queen of Budapest, slips a mind-bending potion in Daniel’s soft drink and takes him on a wild ride.
The director turns up as a gruff but pliable border guard in Romania playing chess with the Bulgarian border guard; his brother (Cem Akin) is a gruff border guard in Turkey.
Drug use in the spinning of the tale stands in for Shakespeare’s love philtres which help characters see that reality is often a lot different and more interesting than things as they first appear. Daniel’s first joint provides for an amusing, Lebowski-like scene with Juli on a moonlit barge on the Danube.
The story plays like a rollicking grand caper that everyone is winkingly in on except Daniel, with Juli always bright-eyed and game, a dynamo of positive energy guided by an abiding faith, and inspired by an intuition that Daniel ‘has something deep inside waiting to get out.’


  1. Jaybird ... Can you put a link to Netflix on your blog for yer recs? I'm gonna copy and paste, but man ... you know... i get LAZY.

  2. That would indeed help the lazy, Sr./Sra./Srta. Glug, but probably not a good idea until Netflix pays me to use it's name...