Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Das Fräulein

Andrea Staka(2006)

Switzerland/ Germany

Genre: Drama
Language: German, Serbo-Croation (English subtitles)

This film is available as a DVD in the Project Library at Royal Holloway, University of London

The film tells the story of three women belonging to different generations and different ethnic backgrounds, all of whom migrated from Yugoslavia to Switzerland at some stage in their lives.  Fifty-year old Ruza, is Serbian and came from Belgrade to Zürich as a young woman full of hope and dreams. Retrospectively, however, she admits that life back then in Tito's Yugoslavia was good. In the affluent but also cold and unwelcoming city of Zurich, she successfully runs a canteen. Her life revolves around her work, her daily routine, counting the money she has made, yet she is lonely and hard. Nevertheless, she does not consider returning to her native Serbia and suppresses memories of her past. Sixty-year old Mila from Croatia also spent most of her adult life in Zürich, where she and her Croatian husband Ante brought up their sons. While Ante spends all their savings on building a dream house 'back home' on the Adriatic coast, Mila feels that her home and her life is now in Switzerland, where her sons live. Ana, just 22 years old, is of Bosnian origin. She comes from Sarajevo to Zurich, shortly after the war. Her zest for life and ostensible carefree attitude turns out to be only a camouflage for the trauma that haunts her: the experience of the war that made her an orphan, her brother's suicide and her suffering from leukemia.

Still, Ana's ostensibly carefree and optimistic attitude transforms the lives of Ruza and Mila. One day Ana organizes a surprise birthday party for Ruza, where the reserved and distant woman opens up, dances passionately and subsequently embarks on a love affair with a devoted admirer of hers. Through Ana's influence, Ruza becomes not only kinder and happier but she is also able, at last, to remember her past, her childhood and youth in Serbia. Mila takes courage and stands up to her husband asserting her intention to stay in Switzerland rather than build a new life in the former Yugoslavia, a country from which she feels disconnected. Ruza also takes Ana under her wing and takes her to a hospital for treatment. But Ana, rather self-destructively, runs away from the hospital and hits the road again, catching a lift to Geneva, apparently unwilling to take responsibility for her own life by undergoing chemotherapy. She is on the run from the trauma of Sarajevo. 

The film's title, Das Fräulein, is intended as an 'ambivalent term' according to the director: 'not a girl and not a woman, a woman without a man, a Yugoslav woman without a home, [Das Fräulein] is a film about invisible people.'  

More information about the making of Das Fräulein and the director's intentions can be found in this German-language podcast and in the film's presskit. 

Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 21 Mar 2006 • Discuss this Film

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