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BERLINALE 2021 Panorama

Review: Copilot

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- BERLINALE 2021: Anne Zohra Berrached's third feature is an enthralling drama starring Roger Azar and Canan Kir

Review: Copilot
Roger Azar and Canan Kir in Copilot

Anne Zohra Berrached's Copilot [+see also:
trailer
interview: Anne Zohra Berrached
film profile
]
is one of the titles taking part in the Panorama section of this year's Berlinale. This is the German director's third feature, following her debut, Two Mothers [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, screened in the 2013 Perspektive Deutsches Kino section, and 24 Weeks [+see also:
film review
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Q&A: Anne Zohra Berrached
film profile
]
, which premiered in the main competition at the Berlinale and won the German Film Award in Silver.

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The drama, penned by the Erfurt-born helmer herself together with Stefanie Misrahi, starts in the mid-1990s and follows what at first seems to be a classical love story between the two leads, Asli (played by the wonderful Canan Kir) and Saeed (convincingly portrayed by Roger Azar). The pair get to know one another while spinning bottles at a party in their student hall of residence. More specifically, the girl seems deeply fascinated by Saeed’s charisma and self-confidence. After some time, the two end up marrying in secret, as Asli’s mother is vigorously opposed to their relationship. They promise each other eternal love, and Saeed discloses Asli his lifetime dream – in a slightly corny, but ultimately enjoyable scene – of becoming an aviator. One day, however, the boy mysteriously disappears and Asli is left alone with no explanation. This traumatic event is the catalyst for what becomes another type of film entirely, one that grows in emotional intensity and depth with every scene.

The couple's turbulent vicissitudes, told over the course of a few years, open up several thematic layers. While the most evident is that of their romance, tender but troubled, Copilot also proves to be a tale about unsolvable socio-cultural clashes, trust issues, matriarchal families, Muslim faith and the transition to adulthood. The film's main turning point – here undisclosed so as not to spoil it for the viewer – shakes up the order of things previously established by the narration. While said twist may not come as a surprise to some, the film might nevertheless retain their attention as the impact of the event may be more interesting to observe than the actual event itself.

Luckily enough, this narrative complexity is well rendered by excellent interpretations and solid dialogues. The director's thorough research work on the characters is evident through their many small details, such as the casual conversations presenting the couple's differing points of view and visions of life, or the self-perception developed by Asli, sporadically conveyed by the presence of one or more doppelgängers.

Furthermore, the narration significantly benefits from a compelling score composed by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine, and the careful cinematography lensed by Christopher Aoun (The Man Who Sold His Skin [+see also:
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interview: Kaouther Ben Hania
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]
, Capernaum [+see also:
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). The camera often follows the two leads from a close distance and delivers numerous striking intimate moments, the secret marriage in the mosque and their first night together being just two of these. With this feature, Berrached tells an enthralling story and proves a superb knowledge of the acting work.

Copilot was produced by Germany's Razor Film Produktion, France's Haut et Court and Germany's Zero One Film. Its world sales have been entrusted to Köln-based outlet The Match Factory.

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