Lost and Rootless

in 16th International Film Festival Bratislava

by Tereza Fischer

The Norwegian contribution to this year’s Competition of First and Second Feature Films in Bratislava is at the same time an important contribution to the women’s film. I Am Yours (Jeger din) begins with an image of a young woman, visibly from a south Asian culture but dressed in an oversized pullover with a Norwegian pattern. As the sweater covers almost even her shorts, she looks naked underneath and vulnerable. It seems she’s been walking for a long time and there is no obvious end to this journey, rather a blur at the end of the shot indicating openness. The protagonist of Iram Haq’s debut feature is 27-year-old Mina (Amrita Acharia), an unemployed actress and divorced mother of six-year-old Felix. As a child of Pakistani immigrants she is trapped between two cultures. Her life in a modern society, with its personal freedom of choice, means she enjoys clashes with the religious and family values of the Pakistani tradition. Although she managed to come back to Norway from an arranged marriage in Pakistan, she isn’t a radical fighter who would give up family ties too easily.
One of the first scenes of the film shows Mina masturbating to some online porn. She is a lonely single parent, longing for a lover. Neither is she successful with men nor with her job. In repeated scenes of her auditions, she appears exposed and insecure, obviously never convincing enough for the casting agents. Similarly intimidated, Mina sits regularly on the parental sofa, listening to her mother’s constant complaints about her being a disappointment and even bringing shame on the family. At one point Mina’s mother Samina (Rabia Noreen) surprises her daughter by turning up at her place and begging her not to ruin her life, as she is made to feel responsible for Mina’s failure and is herself beaten and abused by her husband. Again, Mina doesn’t stand up for herself, merely covering her half naked body with the Norwegian sweater. This piece of Norwegian traditional clothing functions as some kind of protection for her.
Mina lives through several disappointments herself. After her divorce from a successful Pakistani architect, who has married again, she apparently stumbles from one unhappy relationship to another. Nevertheless, she draws hope from a made-for-the-movies encounter with Swedish scriptwriter Jesper (Ola Rapace) who charms her into falling in love with him. Playing with the strong romantic idea of a fateful turn for Mina, I Am Yours evokes the fantastic atmosphere of the lover’s encounters in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise or Michael Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Jesper seems to be the perfect guy, making her feel loved and even inviting Felix to his loft in Stockholm. But there’s where the trouble starts again and Mina finds herself trapped between lover and son.
Iram Haq, herself a Pakistani-Norwegian actress and mother, seems to draw on her own experiences when staging compellingly this inner conflict. Not being able to satisfy the needs of both lover and child is a problem for many modern women, especially in Scandinavia where the rate of separated relationships with children is very high. Ultimately, Mina gets pushed away by what seemed to be a perfect lover, heading back to Oslo with Felix. But on this journey she loses her son as well: During her nap Felix disappears from the car. In panic Mina looks for her son in a parking area full of trucks and finally finds him again after some excruciating minutes of horror, knowing now the deathly sense of losing one’s child.

The last part of the film stirs towards gloominess and despair. Not only is Mina cast out by her family, she’s sexually used by a former boyfriend and craves even more for some happiness. Her last attempt to reach her goal seems desperate, as she decides to give up Felix, so he can experience parental love and a sense of family life with his father and his wife. She then turns to her last acquaintance. Another scene, showing her dancing with the young man, differs from the romantic dancing with Jesper. In this stressed happy acting she realizes the pointlessness of her previous struggles and of this attempt of being loved. She leaves and wanders off into the night, wearing her Norwegian pullover.

It was a brave decision of Iram Haq to show the consequences of Mina’s struggle and to let her even give up her son. It is especially daring because in contrast to men’s comparable failures this kind of female behaviour is not accepted, not even in a liberal society such as Norway. The more important aspect here is Iram Haq’s realistic and complex character study and the compelling performance by Amrita Acharia. Haq succeeds in assimilating multiple layers of this most complex of problems, some arising from a clash of cultures, others from a development in family structures in modern society. This complication is combined in one single character, but never seems excessive.    

Edited by Steven Yates