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First Look Review - A REGULAR WOMAN

a regular woman review
The story of Hatun "Aynur" Sürücü, victim of a 2005 "honour killing".

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Sherry Hormann

Starring: Almila Bagriacik, Rauand Taleb, Meral Perin, Murtuz Yolcu, Armin Wahedi, Aram Arami

a regular woman poster

A Regular Woman, Sherry Hormann (director) and Florian Öller’s (screenplay) striking real-life drama, begins with a flashy tracking shot, which follows our central character Aynur (Almila Bagriacik - excellent) as she wanders down a busy Berlin street, the soundtrack cueing up the pre-millennium perennial Getting’ Jiggy Wit It by Will Smith. The voiceover, by Aynur, tells us that this was her favourite song. The camera gently swoops after the girl, following her lead as she points out various other women going about their business: crossing the road, shopping. The colours in the early scenes of A Regular Woman are as bright and poppy as the tunes the young Aynur favours, and the cinematography matches this energy with freeze frames interrupting the otherwise fast flowing camera. But then there is a sudden jolt. Aynur, with characteristic nonchalance, indicates an alleyway strewn with police tape and flowers. There is a blown up black and white photograph of a recognisable girl. "This is where I was killed," Aynur tells us.

a regular woman review


A Regular Woman’s style then flicks to real life news footage, grainy press photography: a grounded verisimilitude which is stark against the loose teen rhythms of just before. This dichotomy characterises A Regular Woman, which is a film based upon true events, the murder of 23-year-old Hatun "Aynur" Sürücü in 2005. Sürücü was a Turkish born woman, living in Germany, whose family were (are, as they are still alive and free) Sunni Islam. Aynur rejects the tenets of this denomination and breaks off from her arranged marriage to a feckless cousin, and attempts, over her limited years, to make a life for herself and her young son. She attends school. She forges links with other people. She is eventually killed by her youngest brother, who shoots the unarmed Aynur three times in the head. This is called an ‘Honour Killing’.

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There is very little editorialising in A Regular Woman, and, although the subject is gut wrenchingly emotive, for the most part the film is lacking in the bogus ‘worthiness’ which infect films of a similar ilk. Sürücü’s story never once feels exploited for the edification of a vicarious audience. Instead, Hormann and Öller seem dedicated to giving Aynur the sort of voice she was denied in her two decades alive. Öller’s screenplay is based on Matthias Deiß and Jo Goll’s scrupulously researched book, which came in the wake of the global outcry following Sürücü’s murder, so there is a sense of validity.

a regular woman review


There also is a necessarily even hand at play: it is made quite clear that this is not all Muslims, and that the Sürücü family are extremist in their beliefs. The mosque which the brothers go to is sparsely attended, grubby and culty in comparison to the palatial peace of other Berlin mosques, which constitute mainstream places of worship. The film also refreshingly makes no bones about who its audience will be, with Aynur aiming her voiceover squarely at white European hegemony: "you guys don’t understand our culture or language" she states, almost apologetically, before going on to explain what her brand of faith entails.

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And thus, via a series of time spanning vignettes, we witness the casual horror of Aynur’s existence. On her wedding day her mother gifts her a razor, so her daughter can cut herself and fake hymenal blood. You know, just in case. Her brother sexually abuses her. Her sister is traitorous. These grim scenes are, however, expounded by the focus on Aynur as she tries to set herself up in a shelter, attempts to start a new relationship, and to provide safety for her son. Yet all the while, she is drawn back towards her family: "I know what you are thinking," Aynur admits during one of these remigrations, "is she so stupid?" Unfortunately, in real life, things are rarely so simple.

a regular woman review


At times, A Regular Woman does sag dramatically during its second act, wherein we see Aynur essentially doing what most of us would take for granted (ie, getting on with our one and only lives), but this is a necessity to the respectful and ultimately triumphant tone of the film, which gives an authentic and detailed platform to the life and existence of this young woman. That this film exists is its own happy ending. As Aynur remonstrates, at the very least the audience are captive and that, in her words, we are "sitting here and listening."

A Regular Woman is available through US virtual cinema screenings from June 26th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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