German Film Week 2017
„…an uncompromising portrait of a woman prepared to go to any lengths to win her longed-for independence.“ Cineuropa
Marija, a young Ukrainian woman, earns her living as a hotel maid in Dortmund, but dreams of owning her own hair salon. She puts money aside each month, but when she is fired without notice, her dream seems out of reach. Without work and under financial pressure, she finds herself forced to look for other opportunities. Her body, her social relationships and her own feelings take a secondary importance to her goal. Michael Koch’s feature film debut is the portrait of a young woman who lives on the periphery of our production and consumer-oriented society, but does not accept the ascribed role of the victim. Demanding, determined and uncompromising, she fights to live a freer, self-determined life.
Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH
Philbert DyMarija is a tough watch, for sure. The titular character (Margarita Breitkreiz) starts out the movie working as a maid for a hotel. She is an immigrant from the Ukraine, and she is finding it difficult to make ends meet. So, she at times turns to petty theft to supplement her meager income, but this quickly leads to her being terminated. She then goes and sticks a fork in the thigh of the person that ratted her out, because Marija is no victim. The film then follows her as she continues to pursue her rather modest dream of opening a salon, hustling every day and giving up parts of her dignity all in the name of trying to make things work out.
The film follows Marija as she goes from one exploitative situation after another on the way to trying to pay her rent and lay out a down payment for the potential site of her salon. She gets into some shady business as well with a businessman making deals with some Russians. It’s all very sad, but the main character’s flinty, painfully practical outlook carries over to the entire film. The movie paints out the casual tragedies of her situation without resorting to melodrama or the kind of misery porn that can find their way into stories like this.
It’s a gritty but canny movie that doesn’t just linger on suffering. At the center of all this, Margarita Breitkreiz provides a dazzling, formidable performance that makes it clear at all points that Marija, while inherently tragic, isn’t just going to wither in the face of her hardships. Through that lens, the pathos becomes all the more powerful, as one starts to wonder what would be possible if things were just fairer: if immigrants weren’t treated so poorly, or if women could attain the equality that has been promised them for far too long. In lieu of a just society, Marija fights, and that’s just about the best that she can do.