May 16, 2009

Maya ring in In July

In the German film Im Juli (In July), Daniel the nerdish math teacher hasn't learned how to enjoy life. But a young woman who sells jewelry in an open mart has spotted him and decided he has something to offer. When he drops his groceries nearby, she makes her move.

As Juli approaches Daniel, we see she has an Maya or Aztec calendar tattooed on her back between the shoulder blades. Clearly she represents the sunshine missing from Daniel's life. (Fortunately they named her July rather than something more obvious such as Sol, Sunny, or Summer.)

Juli shows Daniel a silver ring with a Tarot- or New Age-style sun on it. The following dialogue ensues:JULI:  You look like you could use some luck.

DANIEL:  A bag would do.

JULI [pointing to the ring]:  What's this?

DANIEL:  A sun.

JULI:  What's a sun?

DANIEL:  It's a ball of gas which the Earth and the other eight planets revolve around.

JULI [correcting him]:  The sun lights up life: for me, for her, and for you.

JULI:  Another word for light is...?

DANIEL:  Energy.

JULI:  It's good luck.

DANIEL:  I see. The ring is a lucky charm.
After they introduce themselves, Daniel starts to go, but Juli stops him.JULI:  What about the ring?

JULI:  It's a very old Mayan ring.

JULI:  The legend says, whoever wears the ring can recognize happiness.

JULI:  You will soon meet a girl wearing the same sun that you have.

JULI:  She is the only person who is destined to bring you happiness.
Daniel buys the ring, thinking his luck may have changed. Soon he meets a girl with a sun on her shirt and decides he's in love. Her name is Melek ("Angel") and he heads to Istanbul to rendezvous with her.

On the road

After meeting Juli coincidentally (?), the pair hitchhike south with a trucker. Juli is wearing a Japanese-style "rising sun" shirt. The trucker has a tattoo of Che Guevara, the patron saint of indigenous revolution, on his bicep. She asks him about it:JULI:  What's that for?

TRUCKER:  That's Che.

JULI:  Yeah, but what does it mean to you?

TRUCKER:  What did Che fight for?

JULI:  For justice.

TRUCKER:  Yes, but what else?

JULI:  For freedom?

TRUCKER:  Bingo. This Che stands for my belief in individual freedom.
(This exchange is for reader DMarks.)

Anyway, Daniel pursues his angel while followed by the sun (Juli) and tempted by the moon (Luna). After many adventures, everyone reaches a happy ending.

It's always nice to see an unexpected bit of Native culture on the screen. Although they don't mention it again, the whole movie is based on a Native legend.

Of course, the Maya ring is undoubtedly a phony. And no points for implying that the Maya religion was akin to sun worship or that it used magical talismans ("lucky charms").

Still, Im July is a sweet romantic comedy with a bit of unpredictability not seen in standard Hollywood fare. As a former math major, I can vouch that we math types have a lot of hidden depths waiting to be discovered. <g>

Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.


Stephen said...

Anyone who thinks that (cli)che guerva stands for freedom is ignorant and deluded.

Rob said...

I think the filmmaker and a lot of Latin Americans believe this. I don't necessarily agree with them.