Tuesday, April 23

My friend Margie and I watched "The State I Am In," one of the films featured in this year's German Film Week themed Strong Women, Weak Men. It's tempting to sum the film as a Running On Empty for girls. Parents living in exile because of a terrorist activity from their (reckless, ideological?) youth, a teenage daughter who is torn between her parents' cause and the urge to live life as all kids her age do. All it needed was a Fire and Rain moment, which thankfully I think, did not come.

Jeanne has lived all the 15 years of her life on the run, in clothes too normal and ordinary they must be a disguise. She then meets the surfer boy Heinrich, whose lifelong activity is to follow where the good waves are. He's been to Miami, to Portugal, searching for the perfect sun and beach, searching for his endless summer. His parents don't give a fig where he is, and his house which he painstakingly describes for her (the underfloor heating, the bedroom window from which he looked out and saw his mother floating lifeless in the pool) has been empty for years. He promises Jeanne that one day, he will take her there.

Meanwhile, Jeanne's parents have been planning an escape to Sao Paolo, where they will have another life, away from the hauntings of their (not her) past. Everything would have been fine, except that Jeanne has found a reason to want to stay behind. She loves this boy now, and as all terrorists in hiding know, loving someone usually entails wanting to tell this someone all about you. And they simply cannot risk that. If you're a fifteen year old girl who has never been shouted at by a teacher, or listened to Brian Wilson, or shoplifted a CD, or sneaked out because you cannot bear to hear your parents doing the nasty, so you opt to meet up with this person you like, wouldn't you want to do the same? To stay in that place, get to know this person, and for once have someone who will love you, who will hold you and wouldn't berate you about the proper translation of "staffed aubergines?"

I thought so. But if you are the daughter of terrorists in hiding, you have no choice but to leave everything behind and follow your parents as they meet other people who do not really exist according to state records. You will learn the art of holding Moby Dick conspicuously for those who want to see the great white whale. And when the boy you love turns out in the pizza parlor scraping pans while you peeled off the clothes you stole (you wanted to get out of your "disguise") wouldn't you want to get stay with him? You do, even for a while, and then you jump out of his window as you run half naked down the road. You run into your mother who asks you if that was your first time, (Not now, Mother. Besides, do you really want me to answer that question?) and your parents grill you. Who is this boy? What have you told him? They don't believe you when you say you told this boy your family is a member of a strict cult who fucks around ecstatically under the moon. When you love, you would want to tell him the whole truth about you. Your parents decide to drive 100 miles and leave you with another stranger with the same fate they have, but you promise to recant everything, not to see him, to not hold dear his kisses anymore. You cannot bear the thought of going away again, of living another life under somebody else's name.

So you stay while your parents plan out a bank robbery in order to secure your future, whatever that means. Your boy turns up again, while you are on the lookout. You tell him you do not love him, you are disgusted by him, and by God, he was just too small. He slaps you, and his friend in the bicycle gives you the finger. Your parents show up in wigs and snow jackets, your father is bleeding. You have to run away. You have the money now to escape to Sao Paolo. Knowing that this will be your last night here, you sneak out and go to him. To tell him that you really do love him, that all you can think about is his stories even if they turned out to be lies. He knows you robbed the bank this morning, and would you like to have another drink? Just promise him not to jump out the window. He goes, and you just know that you've broken every rule in the daughters-of-terrorists-in-hiding rule book. So you jump out of the window again, forgetting about that pre-goodbye coitus you were planning on having.

Life is difficult, Jeanne. Your boyfriend called the authorities, just as you thought so. There will be no reprieve. You will survive the crash, but you will always be on the run, forever being the daughter of terrorists in hiding.

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