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Ae Fond Kiss

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UK, 2004, 105 minutes, Colour.
Atta Yaqub, Eva Birthistle, Shamshad Akhatar, Ghizala Avan, Shabana Bakhsh.
Directed by Ken Loach.

For almost forty years, Ken Loach has devoted himself to films with passionate social concern. Not only is he still going strong, his reputation is higher than ever. During the last decade, he has won awards, critical acclaim and a larger following from the general public. His collaborator for the last seven or eight years has been a Scotsman, Paul Laverty, who spent some time in a seminary. This religious interest has been prominent in some of the films (like Carla’s Song) and it is one of the key elements of Ae Fond Kiss.

‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is a quotation from the poet, Robert Burns. The two protagonists of this film are involved in more than a fond kiss. He is an earnest young man, a local DJ, who lives with his family, preparing for an arranged marriage. She is a music teacher at the school which his younger servant attends. The crucial information, however, is this: he is the son of Pakistani migrants to Glasgow, strictly traditional and devoutly Muslim; she is a Catholic and her school is Catholic.

The romantic element is treated as might be expected, delightful little details (like moving her piano with his local friends) and a sudden holiday in Spain (where some of the production money came from). Much of it is routine with a touch of sentiment.

The drama arises when the family discovers the truth. Once again, a lot of this is what we might expect. The Pakistani parents are adamant. The prospective in-laws are shocked. The son is defiant. Where the film is of greater interest is in the Catholic response: the principal wanting to keep the teacher but the parish priest giving her a severe lecture on moral standards and examples for the children.

Matters come to a head when the Pakistani older sister finds that her boyfriend’s family will not permit a marriage because of her brother’s involvement with a non-Muslim. She makes a very strong case for self-sacrifice on the part of the couple, making a plea to both parties. However, we live in a very emotional world, where sympathies for those in love are usually stronger than relying on principles.

Loach and Laverty offer us a story where the issues are clear but where the answers are very difficult.

1. The work of Ken Loach? His social perspective? The lives of ordinary people? His work in Scotland?

2. The Glasgow settings, the streets and houses, the atmosphere of the suburbs, the differing racial neighbourhoods, shops, schools, the Catholic church, mosques?

3. The multicultural perspective of Glasgow, the Islamic traditions and attitudes, the Catholics in Scotland as a minority, in a Protestant country? The Scottish tone given in the title of Robert Burns’ poem – and the irony that in the poem the lovers have to part?

4. The significance of music, Roisin as a music teacher, class, singing, instruments, moving the piano into her flat? Casim and his being the deejay, the range of music that he played in the club? The music bringing each of them together?

5. The opening, the school, Tahara and her declaration of her identity, Pakistani, Muslim, in a Catholic school, her football support? The school as a place for finding one’s identity as well as a unity in Glasgow?

6. The portrait of Casim, his age, at home with his parents, his father building the extension to the house for him and his wife? His older sister, going to school to pick up Tahara? His life, studies, ambitions? British Pakistani? The Islamic traditions, language? His not revealing everything to his parents? The fight at school, rescuing Tahara, the breaking of the guitar? The glimpse of Roisin, the effect on him? His work as a deejay, his friend and his partner?

7. Roisin, Irish background, teaching at school, temporary, the fight, the breaking of the guitar? Casim, his not noticing her? The return, driving her home, bonding? The new guitar? The moving of the piano with his friends? The growing relationship, her not revealing it, her having to bow down in the car so that the Pakistanis would not see her? Her flat, the strength of the emotional relationship, sexual relationship, the cover and their going to Spain for the holiday? The possibilities of a relationship?

8. The background of the parents, their coming to the United Kingdom, bringing Pakistani attitudes, Muslim attitudes, traditions? The preparation for the arranged marriage, the meeting with Jasmine and her parents, the rituals, the way of speaking? Expectations? The father in his shop (and Roisin coming in to buy something and to have a look)? The comedy of the builders with the extension, the carrying of the piano up the stairs and it falling? Their continued support of Casim?

9. Rukhsana as the oldest, her engagement, the strength of her love for her fiance, the difficulties with Casim’s behaviour, her decision to meet with Roisin, her severe talking with her, the plea? Driving her through the neighbourhood? Where did audience sympathies lie in terms of the tradition, Rukhsana’s marriage, Roisin’s marriage?

10. Roisin and the headmaster, the possibility of permanent tenure, the documents, her visit to the parish priest, his interrogation about her life, her angry reaction, privacy, his loud and bullying method? The significance of Catholic teachers in a Catholic school and their being role models? The film’s point of view on this tenet? Her being assertive? Casim bringing her to the house, the visit to the extension and her reaction?

11. The nature of a Catholic school, the principal, his willingness to have Roisin on the staff, the fact of example, the priest and his dominance? The sympathetic presentation of the liturgy, the sympathetic priest and his celebrating of mass?

12. Roisin, examining her own love for Casim, her response to Rukhsana’s challenge, her seeing the meeting between Casim and Jasmine’s family?

13. Casim and his not telling the full truth to Roisim, his being trapped, Jasmine and Rukhsana’s reaction? The pressure on him?

14. Tahara, her place in the family, her age, at school, her ambitions, wanting to go to study, her father not wanting her to go, defying him, her telling Casim about the parents’ plans?

15. The end, Casim and Roisin together? Who was correct? Does love overcome all difficulties? The place of traditions, their social consequences? The theoretical issues behind the story, the intellectual content, the audience’s emotional response, response to a cause in ideology or empathy for the characters?

Created by: coffey last modification: Tuesday 28 of April, 2009 [10:10:09 UTC] by malone

Language: en