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Wives of the Fishermen
by Becky Tan

Male critics from the Hamburger Abendblatt and Die Welt disliked the festival’s opening film, Doris Dörrie’s The Fisherman and his Wife (Der Fischer und seine Frau), saying, “the old-fashioned conflict between a family and a job is straight from the 1970s” (Tom R. Schulz) and “it’s a medium catastrophe, not even a film for women” (Holger True) and “talking fish can not transform this into a cinema fairy tale.” (Sascha Westphal). How about some words from the women? Read on.

Teeny Tiny Sweater
Fisherman recently taught me a lesson. After arriving home from the States with my son Adrian, I was unhappily surprised to find moldy fruit on the kitchen table and, in my son’s closet, my lovely wool sweater reduced to a size that only a Jack Russell Terrier could wear. I suddenly had this feeling that I was in a scene from a film I had recently seen, and I was supposed to flip out at my husband’s inability to deal with housewifely work. The scene that came into my mind was from Fisherman: Ida walks in from a hard day at the office, Otto is playing with their child, and the house is a complete wreck. She flips out while wondering how he can live this way and then proceeds to clean it up. It is the typical reaction that many couples have in the power struggle to control the home environment. I decided against flipping out since this film clearly illustrated that it doesn’t help the relationship and leaves both parties frustrated. Instead, I decided humor would be a better reaction. I laughed and asked Frank how he washed the clothes while I was gone, and he naturally said, “with hot water at 95°C. They are clean, aren’t they?” “You’re right; they’re clean.” This of course made me laugh harder because it occurred to me that Frank did not realize that the sweater was mine and not Adrian’s, and it certainly wasn’t one of his white business shirts which does need to be washed at 95°. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)

Communication Is It
It was not until I was doing research on the Brothers Grimm that I realized this was one of their stories. Most of their tales are filled with imagination and a moral message. This film must have had subliminal messages going on too because when I talked about it with anyone, I always had this visual picture of bolts and bolts of white silky material with huge red markings on it. Love as a decision is what Marriage Encounter teaches; we have to decide daily to love our spouse. What that looks like in each marriage is different depending on each person’s love. I don’t agree that women never get enough, but this film did make me ponder the ways that I show my husband Steve, without realizing it, that I am not satisfied with his provisions. It made me want to work harder at verbally communicating my thankfulness to him for the time he takes making my life easier. (Karen Pecota)

Old Message
This was the first film that I saw at this year’s festival. It was exciting to be among the Beautiful People on opening night and see the director and her four leading actors in the cinema. Plus, it was fitting that a German film opened Filmfest Hamburg. But I didn’t care for the film’s message: that women are never satisfied and always want more from their long-suffering husbands. Is that true? As true as any generalisa-tion, perhaps, but why bother today to highlight such an old message? I’d never heard of the fairytale on which the movie was based, and although I applaud Doris Dörrie for making such a great adaptation of it, I hope she chooses a more PC subject next time. (Jenny Mather)

Fishy Inspiration
Fisherman highlighted life lessons with a quirky humor; for instance, you can find inspiration anywhere – even in a fish. Ida created scarves using the bright Koi fish designs and sold them to an exclusive boutique. As she then turned her talents to other clothing, her husband Otto became the houseman, taking care of their baby and his fish. When Ida became wealthy from her fashions, she learned that money and commercial success do not guarantee satisfaction or hap-piness, finally realizing that Otto was most important to her. Otto never let ambition get in the way of his real love of the Koi. So, do what you love and the money will follow – perhaps not much money, but at least you love your work as Otto did. After growing apart, Ida and Otto learn how to grow together – perhaps one of life’s most challenging lessons. (Mary Nyiri)

That’s Me
I recognized myself in the film. My husband takes an eternity to make decisions and take action, whereas I often forge ahead. For example, it was a very good idea to get married 40 years ago, but if I hadn’t “forced the issue” by becoming pregnant, we would still be dating. Or, just recently, we decided to take three large easy chairs to Speermüll. Eight weeks after this decision they were still blocking the living room, so I did it alone, which upset my husband because I hadn’t waited for him. Often the job is bigger than three easy chairs, and I can’t do it alone. This means that I have to wait, which is frustrating; as a result, I take on many outside activities or jobs and, just like Ida, do my own thing. (Becky Tan)

Hmmmms and ahhhs
My favorite scene in Fisherman was a “conversation” in which an emotional Ida, sick of living in the mobile home, is ready to take the next step in their lives. Otto, clueless as to his wife’s actual wishes, simply tries to prevent her from getting more upset. With a classic deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face, he makes an ambiguous response, from which Ida sees only what she wanted to see. In reality, this is a significant danger of having a “nice guy” for a partner or for being one oneself, and since seeing the film, I have reflected quite a bit on the quality of communication within my own relationship. Do I project my wishes onto poor Roland by interpreting those vague-sounding “hmmmm”s and “ahhhh”s as agreements? It has been worth taking a closer look. (Alyssa Cirelli)

Designer Insight
Our heroine meets her future husband on her trip to Japan in search of inspiration for her fabric designs. Since seeing this very entertaining film I pay more attention to Japanese designers – especially Isamu Noguchi, who was recently featured on ARTE. (Nancy Tilitz)