As I am learning the German language and will be studying there next semester, it follows that I am a pretty big fan of German culture, particularly its movies! There are a lot of great ones out there, old and new, but none that I’ve seen are straight-up comedies. Im Juli, a comedic road trip through Eastern Europe, broke that mold for me. Most of the film is a frame story in which hitchhiker Daniel (Moritz Bleibtreu) tells driver-with-dead-body-in-his-trunk Isa (Mehmet Kurtulus) about how he came to be abandoned in Bulgaria. Daniel is a fairly conservative high school Physics teacher, ready to spend the spring holiday week alone at his house in Hamburg. Adventurous Juli (Christiane Paul) has the hots for him and in a scheme to get his attention she ends up sending him into the arms of another woman, Melek (Idil Üner), who is leaving for Istanbul to meet someone under the bridge on Friday at noon. Propelled by his instant fascination with her, Daniel decides to drive to Istanbul and declare his love, accompanied by hitchhiking Juli (who coincidentally is also going to Istanbul, well whaddaya know). As they get to know each other, they feel both frustration and attraction. They go through many changes of vehicle, lots of lost funds, a couple of problematic border crossings, and get separated more than once. And of course, they meet a lot of ca-razy people! In the end, everything comes full-circle as Daniel, Juli, Isa, and Melek all cross paths and everyone decides to continue their wandering ways together! With Love and Friendship!
Because of his Turkish heritage, director Fatih Akin often incorporates German-Turk relation issues into his films. I like the multi-national aspect of Im Juli, with locations in Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey (they went through Romania as well but weren’t allowed to film there so it’s shown as a series of photographs). I also like how the movie can acknowledge its own silliness: while getting high for the first time, Daniel literally floats; in an attempt to apply science to a car stunt, he fails miserably. And of course, Akin’s passion for music shines throughout. Melek serenades beach campers with a Turkish ballad, Daniel and Juli croon “Blue Moon”, and there are a couple cool club scenes. It’s got pretty much everything you need for a good road movie, with pretty landscapes, near-death experiences, comedic side characters, lack of proper hygiene, and a focus on the development of a relationship. If you’re looking for a German movie that doesn’t relate to WWII, the DDR, or general unsolvable Problems, then you are in the right cinematic location!