Directed by Christian Petzold, Jerichow (2008) is a dark yet intriguing portrayal of a young German soldier’s struggle to cope with life after his mother’s death. At the beginning of the film, the young soldier Thomas (Benno Furmann) is unemployed and out of cash. He then obtains a seasonal job through the unemployment agency as a cucumber harvester, spending long hours of hard labor lying on his stomach picking cucumbers. As chance would have it, on his way home one day, Thomas finds the wealthy Turkish businessman Ali (Hilmi Sözer), drunk and dazed, sitting in his car which he has just crashed into the river. Thomas lends Ali a hand, then drives Ali home, as the police have their eyes on the Turk for his habit of driving while under the influence. A few days later, Ali comes to Thomas, explaining he has lost his license and needs someone to drive him around everyday to visit the snack stands he owns. Thomas takes Ali’s generous offer and begins work the next day. Soon a secretive love affair develops between Thomas and Ali’s German wife Laura (Nina Hoss), eventually driving Ali to his death.
Placing Ali in the dominant position of the smart and wealthy businessman, director Petzold does a wonderful job reversing the typical roles of German and Turkish people in Germany. Toward the end of the movie, Ali’s weaknesses are revealed: he suffers from both an irregular heartbeat and the feeling of living “in a country that doesn’t want me”. Despite the weighty subjects addressed, there are a few humorous scenes included in this rather melancholic drama. . For example, there is a scene in which the three main characters (Thomas, Ali, and Laura) are picnicking on the beach, and Ali, being very drunk, begins singing and dancing to the Turkish music playing on the stereo. Thomas remarks jokingly that Ali dances like a Greek. Ali retorts to both Thomas and Laura “show me how the German’s dance!” Overall, this film is a great display of both the successes and the hardships of both Turks and Germans living in Germany today.
by Christine Leper