(Turkish and German dialogue)
A rugged drama about a young Turkish woman forced by her family to leave her home in Germany and live in a Turkish village, “Yara” succeeds on one level: as a portrait of an independent femme’s struggle to escape her environment and survive against all the odds stacked against her. But pic suffers from melodramatic elements and a lack of motivation, making for dim international commercial prospects.
A brief prologue set in a German city depicts a young woman arriving by night at an apartment building to see her friend Hulya (Yelda Reynaud) and being told she’s gone back to live with her aunt and uncle in Turkey. It seems Hulya is suffering from an unspecified illness, but there are also hints that her overly close attachment to her female friend has caused her family virtually to kidnap her.
This isn’t too clear, but what’s evident is that Hulya, stuck in a tiny backwater in her homeland, is a very unhappy young woman. She rebels against the traditional role she’s expected to play, refuses to eat or communicate, and seizes the first opportunity to escape, intending somehow to return to Germany, though she’s without money or documents.
This is the start of a long, difficult journey, during which Hulya collapses on the roadside and is cared for by peasants; tracks down her estranged mother (who disgraced the family by leaving her father for another man); falls afoul of the police; and winds up in a nightmarish lunatic asylum for women.
Somehow, the frail but strong-willed woman survives all of this, and pic ends on an optimistic note. But along the way, the audience is exposed to a grueling drama, punctuated with rather curious images that presumably represent the heroine’s dreams.
Handsomely shot by ace German d.p. Jurgen Jurges, the film tends to wallow in the indignities suffered by the beleaguered protagonist, with the yawning gap between her “sophisticated” life in Germany and her almost feudal existence in Turkey graphically depicted. Reynaud suffers nobly in the leading role, and her woes are accompanied by a haunting music score by Rabih Abou Khalil.