Not Another Exilic Movie: Alienation and the Everyday in Shahid Saless's Reifezeit and Tagebuch eines Liebenden
- Author(s): Salehi, Kumars
- et al.
When Sohrab Shahid Saless has been acknowledged, he has generally been placed between nations, in a position of dauntingly uncategorizable otherness as an exilic filmmaker reduced to the interstices of Iran and Germany whose films are best interpreted according to autobiographical details. For his part, Shahid Saless fiercely rejected attempts to contextualize his artistic production in terms of both national and transnational identity. I claim that the most productive reading of two of Shahid Saless’s first films in exile – Reifezeit (“Coming of Age”) and Tagebuch eines Liebenden (“Diary of a Lover”) – derives not from his national or cultural background, but from his consistent political engagement and affinity for social critique.
If, in the context of his life and oeuvre, Shahid Saless’s diptych reflects an exile’s outsider perspective in his host country, it is not primarily through an engagement with the status of “other” conferred upon him by his displacement and distance to the new locus of cultural meaning. The position of otherness that emerges in from his formal and thematic preoccupations is the riven subject of Marxist alienation: The films confront the viewer with the otherness of people within themselves, the powerlessness and even sickness in the individual that is the structural byproduct of the contradictory demands of economic and social life. Daily traumas and humiliations, while seemingly individual and momentary, are also structural and recurring, endemic not just to Iran or Germany, but to every society where the very social fabric is held together by systems of production and reproduction that are as corrosive as they are coercive.