Dir: Umat Dag • Wri: Peter Ladinigg, Umat Dag • DOP: Carsten Thiele • Ed: Claudia Linzer • Cast: Nihal G. Koldas, Begum Akkaya, Vedat Erincin, Dilara Karabayir
This debut feature of director Umat Dag revolves around a Muslim family of Turks living in Austria. 19-year-old Ayse (Akkaya), a village girl who engages in a fake wedding ceremony with Hassan (Muslu), so that in reality she can step into the shoes of his terminally ill mother Fatma (Koldas) and become the second wife to her husband Mustafa (Erincin). Fatma wants this so that there is someone there to act as a mother figure and to look after her husband and her children when she dies. She is welcomed into Mustafa’s family by Fatma, however, Mustafa and Fatma’s children are not so enamoured with this idea, particularly their impudent teenage daughter Nurcan (Karabayir).
It is an interesting set-up and the actors acquit themselves admirably. Dag creates a real sense of claustrophobia out of the family home, in which we get a sense how closed off these people are from their surroundings. As the film progresses it takes some interesting detours and touches on themes such as fidelity, honour and homosexuality. The latter, in particular, seems underdeveloped with Dag and his co-writer Ladinigg seeming to throw it into proceedings for the sake of reminding the audience that this is an important film dealing with serious social issues.
Indeed, the film never really manages to convince us that it has all that much to say about any of the issues it touches upon. Rather it utilises a potentially rich social and political background to play out a soap-opera style drama in which tension is wrought from the schematic mechanics of circumstances and their effect on the disparate characters’ relationships. In terms of being schematic, the film features levels of coincidence that would make the writers of Eastenders blush.
For all these problems, the film remains reasonably entertaining for its modest 90-minute duration. This is thanks largely to the strong performances and also, Dag’s dank aesthetic. Both these things add a sense of believability to the piece, despite its schematic structure, and the performances create real people out of their characters allowing us to empathise and sympathise with them.
Ultimately this is a very slight film which is far too schematic and nowhere near being intellectually rigorous enough in its exploration of the issues of the Muslim faith, marriage and alienation that it raises. It is more interested in its characters’ relationship with each other on an emotional level. On this level it succeeds as a result of excellent acting particularly by Koldas and Karabayir.
A modest success.
Kuma – The Second Wife is released on 16th August 2013