Dutch filmmaker Herbert Curiel takes a Turkish immigrant girl’s attempt, via an interracial romance, to break with constricting tradition and hitches it to a galloping, cosmic meditation on the greater scheme of things in “Krima-Kerime: Noah’s Ark.” National critics took a hatchet to the effort when it bowed in the Rotterdam lineup, but foreign visitors generally responded well, perhaps pointing to a more fruitful life at offshore fests.
Post-production was wrapped just before the Jan. 31 premiere, and unconfirmed reports are that the story’s other-worldly frame was imposed at the last minute to give the central love story some resonance. Whatever form its gestation took, the finished film is by no means negligible.
Pic opens with a starry sky and the voice of an exasperated God, pondering whether to save humanity. He gives an angel exactly 90 minutes to make a film that proves the species worth saving, sending help in the form of Turkish-Dutch girl Feride (Emel Sari), the last living descendant of Noah, and Edwin (Paul Groot), the reincarnation of history’s most just man.
Most audiences will begin groaning at about this point, confronted with such a highfalutin intro, but an accessible narrative soon gets under way. Intercut with archival and news footage of refugees from the Dutch-Indonesian colonies, Vietnam, Africa and former Yugoslavia, a Turkish family living in Haarlem, the Netherlands, comes into view.
Feride’s frequent clashes with her tradition-bound father (Talat Sagiroglu) are aggravated when he discovers she’s seeing neighborhood boy Edwin, who’s almost as ill-at-ease in his own racist family. Her father yanks her out of school, insisting women need marriage, not education, but she rebels and runs off. After her family attempts to abduct her and force her into an arranged marriage back in Turkey, Edwin whisks Feride away to a secluded country cottage to hide out until her 18th birthday.
Film registers grim comments on immigrant experience in docu flashes and scenes from television, while Edwin is subjected to his own creepily rendered taste of outsider alienation. Each trip into town for provisions has him greeted with cold suspicion bordering on hostility from the locals.
The action frequently cuts to a space installation spinning around the doomed planet while God’s voice assesses Feride’s progress, counting down the amount of time left. Her chosen fate, and the film’s bleak closing note, leaves behind a cynical (and slightly sanctimonious) aftertaste.
The fusion of documentary and fiction allows for interesting parallels, often introduced more fluidly than in the main narrative. Feride’s discussion with a school chum of the gap between her feminist ideals and Turkish cultural heritage , for example, plays like a textbook entry. The cultural separatism of immigrant communities as something both enforced and self-inflicted is examined in less obvious terms.
A team of three editors takes credit for the mosaic-like assembly, with Nathalie Alonso Casale presiding over the final cut. Also effective is the soundtrack, a complex web of noise that layers music, dialogue and an ominous drone, suggesting a larger universe than the one the characters inhabit.