Sunday, February 17, 2013

Das Fräulein

by Drew Martin
It was very simple when I was a kid; Yugoslavia was one country, and it exported a cheap car to America, the Yugo. By the 1990s this country, which lumped together more than twenty ethnic groups after World War I, had raging wars and entered the 21st century as seven new states: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I was living in the Czech Republic at the time the war was exploding. The only time I stepped foot in Yugoslavia was when I returned to Prague from Istanbul. The soldiers stopped the train in the middle of the night and made all the Americans stand out in the snow under guard as they moved through the train cars.

I recently became interested in visiting this region, mainly because of a familiarity with their languages. This weekend I watched a Swiss film, Das Fräulein, set in Zurich, which focuses on the lives of three women, a Serb, a Croat, and a Bosniak. The Serb and the Croat are older women who have made new lives in Switzerland. The Serb has no interest in returning home; the Croat dreams of it. The young Bosniak is the life of the film and it is through her character that issues of generational differences and expatriatism are stirred up. Her waywardness and recklessness are pinned to her youth, when in fact is the way she reacts to battling leukemia. It is a good film, which I recommend watching, but the viewer should know something about the region and the complex ethnic conflicts that led to more than 100,000 deaths and tens of thousands of rapes.

Click here to watch the trailer