When will women find love in Turkish cinema?

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When will women find love in Turkish cinema
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Ocak 24, 2009 00:00

ISTANBUL - Last year’s Turkish movies were less than generous in giving Turkish women a happy ending in love. Here’s a look at how sad relations in some of the movies reflect a broader picture of Turkey.

Relationships have always been the heart and soul of cinema, and conflict and complications are essential parts of a good story, but when will women in Turkish movies find a loving man, a fulfilling relationship or even just some fleeting happiness? Is it too much to ask for happy endings or at least a hint of happiness in Turkish cinema?

True, most of the love stories that resonate long after we have watched them are tragedies. What can we say about a 25-year-old girl who died of cancer? Or a man who froze to death in the middle of the Atlantic? But in Turkey, relationship problems cannot simply be attributed to poor luck or bad karma. The doomed relationships on screen reflect bigger problems in real relationships between the sexes in Turkey. They are, most of the time, sad pictures of complications that open up to sad relationships, sometimes with fatal results.

Sad in the city
Istanbul is a filmmaker’s dream city. Its unnerving yet fascinating blend of beauty and chaos, inspiration and danger makes the city a haven for storytelling. Istanbul is the perfect setting to express the anxieties of our time and our society. Class differences, economic upheaval and urban chaos take a new dimension in this city.

Istanbul has been the ideal place to tell stories about urban relationships in crisis. Two critically acclaimed movies of last year, "Issız Adam" (The Isolated Man) and "Ara" (Between), offered perhaps the gloomiest pictures of urban relationships.

In Çağan Irmak’s "Issız Adam," the protagonist tries filling the void in his single, upper-middle class life with mindless sex and collecting vinyl albums. He meets the right girl in a world where it’s almost impossible to spot your potential soul mate. The relationship opens up to possibilities of something genuine and real, but eventually threatens the man’s freedom. This typical story hit a chord among strong women living in big cities, reminding us again about the harsh reality of keeping healthy relationships in a new age.

"Ara" was an even harsher portrayal of marriage, sex and sexual identities constantly in flux. Two couples, intoxicated by the bohemian lifestyle in Istanbul, journey toward their inevitable destruction as neither are able to find a guiding hand to help in their transition from traditional, conservative lives to modern, open ones.

Since 2000, more than 1,000 people in Turkey died from honor killings. It has been a large problem in rural and eastern Turkey, but lately it has become an increasing problem in big cities among people who have migrated from those parts of Turkey where a feudal structure still defines sexual relations.

Tragic stories of young love cut short by honor killings continue to fascinate Turkish directors. Prominent writer, director Zülfü Livaneli’s adaptation of "Mutluluk" (Bliss) by director Abdullah Oğuz, released more than a year ago to critical success, had a more hopeful look at honor killings. However, last year’s "Saklı Yüzler" by female director Handan İpekçi, and Murat Saraçoğlu’s "O... Çocukları" (Children of Whores) were not as hopeful, exposing their protagonists to medieval honor killings. While honor killings shaped one of the many stories in "O... Çocukları," "Saklı Yüzler" took a unique and controversial look at these tragedies, focusing on the men, killers, and how they dealt with killing their sisters, mothers or aunts.

Turkish society has never been comfortable allowing boys and girls to socialize with one another, making sure that men and women don’t mix until they marry. Although the situation is different in cities, in rural Turkey most boys and girls get to know the opposite sex only when they marry their designated spouses.

This awkwardness is often reflected in Turkish cinema, mostly as a source of comedy. Last year’s "Avanak Kuzenler" (Dumb Cousins) or the box-office hit "Recep İvedik" played on the social blunders of men when interacting with women. The former movie aspiring to be a Judd Apatow comedy and failing at that, the second film being a crude imitation of Sacha Baron Cohen’s hilarious persona, Borat. Even "Osmanlı Cumhuriyeti" (The Ottoman Republic), a mediocre look at what would happen if the Ottoman Empire hadn’t fallen and the Sultan still ran the country, portrayed the Sultan like a teenaged boy when flirting with women.

The lack of communication was not as funny in veteran director Erden Kıral’s "Vicdan" (Conscience) when a lower-middle class couple found themselves in a love triangle that led to tragic, fatal results for the women.

Turkish cinema was not generous in portraying happiness in love last year. Hopefully, 2009 will be the year of love for women (and men).

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