“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Thus the film opens with a quote by Tolstoy from Anna Karenina. Ben (Schneider) bids goodbye to the headmaster (Josef Bierbichler) of his upper class boarding school. It’s summer vacation and the headmaster, worried that Ben is in some kind of passive teenaged rut, advises him to have adventures. Little does he know that Ben will fly to Marrakech to visit his absent father Heinrich (Tukur) with whom he has had practically no contact. Heinrich tours with theater productions and will open a play in this Moroccan city, as well as celebrate Ben’s 17th birthday. Even face to face, there is little communication and soon Ben is out on the street in the medina, or historical, walled-in, old town, where he is surrounded by small shops and begging children, and, eventually, prostitutes. This is real life! He connects with Karima, a prostitute about his own age, but years older in experience. He insists on accompanying her to her village where she visits her family in the Atlas Mountains. This causes problems for her – a strange man in the village, after all! – and even more problems for Heinrich, who has no idea where Ben might be. Yes, he does feel responsible. Miraculously, father and son find each other, and slowly wend their way back to the big city and the fancy hotel, which gives them time to learn more about the other, as well as experience a car accident, interaction with the natives, disagreements, and even a fight.
Caroline Link discussed her film at a premiere in Abaton Cinema, Hamburg. Manager Mathias Elwardt reminded us several times that Link was the only German ever to receive an Oscar for best foreign-language film (Nowhere in Africa). She has made a precipitous climb to success in the film world and Exit Marrakech will add to her kudos. Relatively unknown Samuel Schneider has opened many possibilities for his own career with his excellent portrayal of a teenager who finds both himself and his self-confidence. Naturally, Tukur as Heinrich fulfills all expectations, not surprising after a more than 30-year-long career. We in Hamburg are happy that he often visits the city, in spite of having moved to Italy; we Americans are happy that he was an American Field Service exchange student in Boston as a teenager; his two daughters are American citizens. Highest praise goes to the camera team led by Bella Halben. The scenes of the city, the mountains, the dunes, etc., are extraordinary. If this is not a five-star film, it’s only because it could have been 20 minutes shorter and still left us with the same over-whelming impressions. ( )