Judge Adam Arseneau committed fratricide once. Now he is no longer welcome at Phi Beta Gamma parties.
Violence knows no borders.
A dark and morose drama intertwined with racism, hatred, and simmering capitalistic resentment, Fratricide is a helluva ferocious film. If you like your movies aggressive and totally soul-crushing, keep reading.
Facts of the Case
Azad, a young Kurdish boy finally receives enough money in the mail from his older brother, working in Germany, to join him in Europe. His family eagerly sends him away, hopeful at the opportunity that awaits him in the new land.
Azad is thrilled to make it into Germany and meet up with his brother, until he discovers that pimping and prostitution have paid for his fare and the care of his family. Disillusioned, he struggles to procure honest employment, but finds his prospects limited by language and race. He ends up working in a bathroom shaving Kurdish immigrants.
He takes a young boy named Ibrahim under his wing and tries to keep the boy safe, but after they get into a scuffle on the streets with some Turkish immigrants, violence escalates between the young Kurds and Turks. This forces Azad's brother to cross the line into an ever-escalating spiral of retaliation and bloodshed that threatens to undo all their lives.
Set within a strong environment of racial animosity and ethnic tension between Turks and Kurds in Europe, Fratricide is mean from the second its starts. After all, murder, beatings, swearing, gunfights, anal rape, and mutilation are all made ten times more fun when coupled with the harsh reality of being refugees in a foreign land. What a joy this film is! This goes beyond depressing—we're into the realm of something thoroughly masochistic here.
One should realize two things before watching Fratricide. First, Germany, where ethnic diversity is a complex subject, has more Kurds living there than anywhere else in Europe. Secondly, and most importantly, Kurds and Turks have not gotten along in a historical context. We could go into more detail about the specifics if we had the time, but, frankly, it doesn't matter. All the history books in the world couldn't properly justify the crushing abuse that is Fratricide, an angry and violent film so all-consuming in its animosity that it undoes whatever higher morals it wishes to convey in short order.
At its core, Fratricide is an alarming and sobering tale about the deceptively seductive nature of hatred and how the circle of violence often carries with it its own momentum that can be unbreakable, despite people's intentions. The inescapable tragedy of the film is how the characters try to escape the hatred and ethnic tension of their own countries to come to a new land—where the same hatred and tension is started right back up again by a young generation. It would be a noble subject, were Fratricide not such a downer. Watching, one believes this cycle is inescapable. A film built around the back of such a notion is just too damn depressing for words.
The single laugh in this film is an absolutely unintentional one, and sometimes those are the best kind. In one outrageous scene, a dude gets stabbed, disemboweled, and then…um, well, a hungry dog gets involved. It is so utterly pointless and foolish that one cannot help but laugh at its pointless inclusion. Except that Fratricide doesn't leave it at that, no—it makes the sequence integral to the plot of the film throughout, turning an accidentally hilarious and darkly comic twist into something extremely uncomfortable and violent. Ugh.
I had a hard time with the cruelty of this film. It is almost singular in its desire to detest its protagonists, loathe them, and punish them for the crime of existence. What Kurds and Turks have against each other is irrelevant in a sense, since the film really just wants to insinuate that humanity as a whole sucks out loud. I didn't learn anything from this film, didn't feel like I accomplished anything by enduring it, and didn't feel like I gained any insight into the ethnic struggle of Kurdish refugees in Europe. All I got from this film was a deep unsettling feeling in my gut that made me feel slightly nauseous. Can't say I enjoyed the experience.
Writer/director Yilmaz Arslan has crafted a violent and unsettling train wreck of a film that is trying at best, terrible to endure at its worst. I freely acknowledge his skill both as a writer and director, and can admire the passion and emotion that went into it, but I cannot abide the enduring message of hatred as insurmountable. Utterly despondent and totally without any redemption for its protagonists, it is a vicious story that starts off angry and depressing, then only gets worse.
From a performance standpoint, the film is well acted and to a lesser extent, well written. I disliked the film's tone and message, but there are no major flaws with Fratricide: no gaps in continuity, amateurish mistakes, or other noticeable detractions. I didn't like the final product from a conceptual standpoint, but credit where credit is due: Fratricide is a well-made film, passionate in its view, that elicits complex, moving performances from its cast.
The transfer is muted and dark, but nice on the eyes. A satisfying level of detail, deep black levels, and grain give the film a shadowy, murky appearance, very stylish and appealing. Daylight sequences are well-balanced with nice colors, nothing too outlandish. Audio is also good—a Dolby 2.0 track in the film's hodge-podge of Kurdish, Turkish, and German—with clear dialogue and balanced bass.
Extras are insignificant—we get a theatrical trailer and nothing else. Not that I wanted anything else.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In their own confused and misguided way, some of the characters do try and seek redemption; at least there is that. Without this small iota of kindness, Fratricide would be an utterly soulless affair. Azad in particular is desperate to make amends with the world, but never quite achieves his salvation. The hatred in the film is too great, too overwhelming, to break out of. Still, the five or so minutes of the film devoted to such scenes are the best parts of this film, and I wish there were more.
The moral ambiguity of two brothers trying to make their way through a foreign land, conflicting with each other, then finding themselves in over their heads is a compelling subject for a film, but executed here with such merciless cruelty and humorless that Fratricide is a morose, unenjoyable experience. If you like movies that make you feel for the hopelessness of humanity as a whole, then go with Fratricide all the way, I guess.
Ugh. It's not a bad film by any means, but damned if I'll ever watch it ever again.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Lorber
• Theatrical Trailer
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