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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
When the movie started and after reading the title, the first thing that I was thinking was: Where could Kafiristan possibly be situated? I really didn't have a clue and I didn't think that it had something to do with the language. I know German and since my own language (Dutch) is very close to it, I was convinced that it wouldn't be a country or a region that we use a completely different name for. But than again, this was only one of the many mysteries about this movie...
"Die Reise nach Kafiristan" tells the story of two women who decide to travel together by car to Afghanistan in 1939, but each is in pursuit of their own project. Annemarie Schwarzenbach is an author who wants to find out more about herself and Ella Maillart is a Swiss ethnologist who has traveled the entire world to meet and study new tribes and people. Both women have a completely different nature and there is only one thing that really bonds them: Their eternal restlessness and the urge to leave the world of politics and a possible war behind them. But history keeps catching up and they never really can escape.
I'm convinced that many people will not like this movie and if I'm honest, neither did I in the beginning. The reason for that is quite simple. This movie isn't some easy entertainment that offers at least one solution to every question that it asks. No, the makers of the movie have decided to stay very vague by only giving you a hint of what they are trying to say. Dialogs are left uncompleted and sometimes the women don't even speak at all, feelings are never really expressed, but are always present and obvious for the viewer who wants to see them... That's of course not something that you will see in every movie and it sure takes some time to get used to.
After a while I really started to like this movie. The landscapes look nice, but they are only there to emphasize the feelings of desolation and complete isolation. In my opinion you have to try to see the beauty of the touching psychological 'landscapes'. It's in their minds that the women go through deep valleys and over high mountain tops as their feelings sometimes clash, but are very parallel at the same time. I know that sounds a bit weird, but that's about the best explanation I can give to it. I guess you just have to watch it for yourself to fully understand what I mean.
As a conclusion I would like to say that this is a very nice psychological road movie that will be loved most by an audience who is used to watch 'alternative' cinema. Don't try this movie when you are only used to watch Hollywood blockbusters, because you just will not like it then. Personally I'm quite used to watch this kind of movies and I must say that this is definitely one of the better in the genre. It's too bad that it sometimes was a bit slow, but I still give it a 7.5/10.
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