In 1939, the author Annemarie Schwarzenbach and the ethnologist Ella Maillart travel together by car to Kabul, but each is in pursuit of her own project. Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who was ...
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In 1939, the author Annemarie Schwarzenbach and the ethnologist Ella Maillart travel together by car to Kabul, but each is in pursuit of her own project. Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who was among Erika and Klaus Mann's circle of friends in the 30s, is searching for a place of refuge in the Near East to discover her own self. Ella Maillart justifies her restlessness, her need for movement and travel, with a scientific pretext: she would like to explore the mysterious Kafiristan Valley and make a name for herself with publications on the archaic life of the nomads living there. Both women are on the run, but political developments and their own biographies catch up with them again and again. Their mutual journey through the outside world, which runs from Geneva via the Balkans and Turkey to Persia, is compounded by the inner world of emotions with a tender love story. Written by
I quite liked this movie. From what I read before seeing it, I expected more beautiful scenery. But the Dubinis clearly wanted to show us a psychological journey more than a physical one, so the camera glides over the most picture-perfect hills, ruins etc, only to swiftly return to our actresses. And this, I think, is good: The film could have become a National Geographic style documentary and that would have left the interesting topic of what moves these two very different characters, who are doing something much out of the ordinary in the 1940s.
Rather then spell things out for you, the directors choose to hint at feelings, to leave dialogs uncompleted and to move on at the point where you would expect a conclusion to be reached. There are pros and cons to that: There is no preferred interpretation and the actresses can use expressions and body language to suggest much more than could have been put into words (and Jeanette Hain is very good at that). But the film seems to move slowly because nothing unexpected can happen this way and in the end, it all was a bit *too* subtle for me.
This said, there are plenty of very moving scenes. Especially the flirtatious side of Annemarie gets well depicted (the dance at the ambassador's house) and at the same time it stays constrained and half-hidden, as you would expect for a woman in that period of time.
The real dramatic moment of the film comes near the end, when the women have to part their ways. Even then, things are very quiet and stilted. Is this a flaw of the Dubinis' film or did they want to show an era in which you didn't discuss your most intimate feelings with others?
I really do not know the answer, I think the film could have improved from a little more ``say what you mean and say it mean''. But it still ranks as a good 8 on my scale.
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