film note: Sascha

Wherever you go, there you are

Sascha
Directed by Dennis Todorović
Germany, 2010, 1h 42min

Köln, or Cologne, was one of the gayest places I visited the last time I did a European tour. If you listen to the city’s government, which likes to tout the fact, it’s gayer than Amsterdam. Located on the Rhine in Germany and being that country’s fourth largest city, it’s not surprising that it’s also full of immigrants looking for better work and a better way of life for their kids.

The title character of this coming-out movie is a son in an immigrant family from Montenegro (although it seems they’re Serbo-Croatian). He’s in love with his piano teacher, the older, native German, Gebhard, who is gay but not interested in young Sascha, at least partly because he, Gebhard, is moving to Vienna. Sascha’s brother, Boki, is in love with Sacha’s best friend, Jiao, who’s Chinese but who’s in love with Sascha. Jio’s dad disapproves of her friendship with Sascha (and thinks they are boyfriend/girlfriend) and of her use of mobile phones. All the dads and moms hate that aspect of modern life. So it’s a big mess, generally, with at least three languages being spoken and everyone misunderstanding everyone’s else’s contexts and motivations.

I thought the movie did a good job conveying this very European milieu with a number of visual jokes made in single shots that establish a sense of place, personal and national histories and the sometimes quick, sometimes slow pace of change. For instance, Sascha’s loud, tall authoritarian dad, Vlado, has been working on their bathroom for over a year. His assistant mistakenly installs a bidet in place of a sink. The assistant asks why he’s in such a hurry. The camera tilts up to reveal the pointed arch over the doorway and Vlado explains that the house used to be owned by Turks. The biggest joke, of course, is that Sascha’s parents didn’t have a clue they were living in one of the gay capitals of Europe.

The film maintains its low-key geniality, perhaps expressed best in lead actor Sasa Kekez’s comic faces, for most of its length, until from out of nowhere a gun appears in Vlado’s hands, changing everything. That ruined it for me. Luckily, most of the good stuff had already happened, shot in a dreamy visual style in which the characters speak and move within gauzy clouds of natural light, and sometimes in silhouette. The camera drifts along with them, even during relatively action-less conversations, inviting us to pay attention.

Sascha is worth a look.

 

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