With Valentines Day approaching I got to thinking about what my favorite romantic movies are, and I came to an odd realization. I could easily name my favorite romantic comedy: When Harry Met Sally obviously, and my favorite downer breakup movie: Eternal Sunshine, but what about a movie that’s just romantic? I found that most often a movie that’s romantic and about a couple falling in love tends to employ the romantic comedy genre, and I guess that makes sense, people want to laugh and smile at the prospect of early love, how could a movie about the honeymoon stage of a relationship not be cheerful? With that mulling over in mind I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, one that truly embraces the silliness of falling in love, and one you’ve surely not heard of (Unless I’ve made you watch it). So, I ask: have you seen Im Juli?
Im Juli (In July for us English speakers if you try to look it up) is a German language film directed by Fatih Akın, which tells the story of a shy Physics teacher named Daniel who finds himself in a road-trip movie all through Eastern Europe during the summer holiday. Events start off when his neighbor Juli, an artist who runs a street stall, sells him a special ring along with a fortune. The ring bears a Mayan sun symbol and she says that the woman of his dreams will be wearing the same symbol the day they meet. She then invites him to a block party that will be going on that evening, because you never know, this special woman just might just be there. You see, along with owning the stall, Juli also owns the ring’s counterpart, along with a big huge crush on Daniel – so this whole set up was just a fun complicated way to try and tell Daniel that she liked him – which may seem like a big dumb hassle, but come on, talk about a “how we met story,” and seriously, you’ve got to respect the long play.
There’s only one problem, when Daniel gets to the party he meets a another woman, named Melek, who’s sporting a giant Mayan sun on her shirt. Buying into his “fortune,” Daniel thinks Melek is this woman of his dreams and approaches her with a confidence he probably did not have before. The two hit it off and just as Juli appears, decked out in her sun ring, she sees her plan blow up in her face as Daniel leaves with Melek. Disappointed, and probably feeling a little dumb, Juli decides to leave for the summer, hitchhiking her way anywhere, as long as it’s away. Meanwhile, things for Daniel aren’t perfect either as he learns that Melek is only passing through on her way home to Turkey to meet her boyfriend. Still thinking this must be his dream woman Daniel decides to set off to Turkey to meet her, boyfriend or not, and as luck would have it, the first person to stop on the Autobahn to pick up Juli is Daniel, and the two begin their journey together to Turkey: Daniel determined to find his dream woman, and Juli determined to make her feelings known and hopefully win Daniel’s affection.
If all this sounds incredibly silly, then all I can say is that I warned you. Daniel and Juli’s trip across Eastern Europe is a whimsical, fantastical, and outright unbelievable tall tale, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What makes this movie so much fun, is that this isn’t an accurate portrayal of the events that transpired, this is essentially the couple telling the story of how they met, of how their fated and likely impossible relationship began. Have you ever heard couples tell the story of how they met, or how their relationship started? For some it takes on a air of fantasy, spinning a perfect golden yarn with details on how all these events lined up in perfect harmony for their destined love to even be possible. As if some higher force was at work. Hell, ask me how delightful girlfriend and I met and I’ll spin a yarn so thin it’ll be microscopic. That is this movie, the fantasy and the silliness of early infatuation, because what is sillier than letting yourself do something as preposterous as fall in love?
I freely admit that my appreciation of this movie may come from how much I relate to Daniel: an introverted, idealistic, and a bit naive science teacher that is completely oblivious to Juli’s clear advances. Yeah, that’s not the story of my life or anything. But there are many more reasons to like this movie, and many scenes that stuck with me long after my initial watch: like when Daniel smokes his first joint, or when Juli puckishly tries to teach Daniel about how spooning is the most comfortable position to share a small bed in, or when Daniel attempts to use his physics knowledge in a real world situation. The film is also put together very well, with great cinematography, editing and acting (as far as I can tell, it’s always hard to call in a foreign film). And oh my God, the German language is beautiful. German has a bad reputation for being harsh and aggressive, and this film has always been my refutation of that claim. Sure, German sounds harsh when it’s being delivered by a screaming Nazi, but remember English can sound just as bad when a hick screams hate speech, and can sound simply wonderful in the hands of someone like Morgan Freeman. Likewise, the lines of Im Juli are a delight to the eardrums, and the big moment the film builds up to sounds as beautiful to my ears as any French passage you could put it up against.
Sure, this movie won’t be for everyone. What I call silly, whimsical and beautiful, others may call saccharine and trite. But if you’re looking for something that toys with the romantic comedy genre and escalates it to the daffy extremes I’ve implied, then I say give it a go. Besides, the title hints at a sexual connotation that I think Hollywood romantic comedies would never dare, and what else could you want in a movie?