Char­ac­ters in Turk­ish cin­ema be­fore and after the 1980 coup: im­po­tent men, mute women

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - By Barış Say­dam

The peo­ple of Turkey were left pow­er­less and apoliti­cized by the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, and Turk­ish cin­ema, too, changed for­ever. Clas­sic male and fe­male roles were rewrit­ten with im­po­tence and dis­con­nect­ed­ness tak­ing cen­ter stage. Turk­ish cin­ema of Sept. 12 and beyond charts the ethos and mean­ing of the dev­as­ta­tion of the ’80s, re­count­ing the sto­ries of losers and dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als, and their ten­u­ous grip on life In the his­tory of its repub­lic, now ap­proach­ing its 90th year, Turkey has ex­pe­ri­enced three mil­i­tary coups that have given rise to many so­ci­etal, eco­nomic and so­cial ills, po­lar­ized its peo­ple and set back the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment. Hav­ing con­verted to a multi-party sys­tem of democ­racy in the 1950s, Turkey then has­tened its in­te­gra­tion into the Western bloc by ac­ced­ing to NATO mem­ber­ship. Dur­ing the sin­gle-party reign of the Demo­cratic Party (DP), elected in a se­ries of land­slide vic­to­ries in the ’50, ’54 and ’57 gen­eral elec­tions, Turkey, now work­ing to be­come part of the Western bloc by bol­ster­ing its rep­u­ta­tion abroad, also had its hands full at home as it strug­gled to achieve so­cial and eco­nomic sta­bil­ity. Many of the DP poli­cies made the old guard un­easy. The oc­ca­sion­ally heavy-handed re­sponses from the DP to­ward stu­dent pro­tes­tors, ex­ac­er­bated by the press’s ten­dency to ex­ag­ger­ate civil un­rest, were used by the mil­i­tary to lend le­git­i­macy to the coup of May 27, 1960. The coup was fol­lowed by the ex­e­cu­tion of thenPrime Min­is­ter Ad­nan Men­deres and two other min­is­ters. The fol­low­ing year saw the draft­ing of the 1961 con­sti­tu­tion and a re­turn to multi-party democ­racy.

On March 12, 1971, the army, rather than in­sti­gate a coup, is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum to the Jus­tice Party (AP). The AP, try­ing but fail­ing to con­tain the con­flict be­tween the left and right-wingers, was forced to re­sign.

On Sept. 12, 1980, the army de­posed the gov­ern­ment. After the coup, led by Gen. Ke­nan Evren, army rule lasted three years. Never be­fore in the his­tory of the repub­lic had a mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment main­tained power for so long. This had harsh reper­cus­sions; the Sept. 12 coup shook Turkey to its very foun­da­tions. All dis­sent and left­ist move­ments were crushed, with a wave of ar­rests and nu­mer­ous deaths in de­ten­tion. Se­verely trau­ma­tized by the left-right schism, the coun­try, hav­ing al­ready hit bot­tom, be­gan to col­lapse.

The 1980s and films about Sept. 12

The trans­for­ma­tion in so­ci­ety also had a neg­a­tive im­pact on cin­ema. Ris­ing in­fla­tion, the im­pov­er­ish­ment of yes­ter­day’s mid­dle class along­side the rise of a new one, and Yeşilçam’s (a metonym for the Turk­ish film in­dus­try) los­ing bat­tle with tele­vi­sion and the video mar­ket were all in­stru­men­tal in dis­tanc­ing the pub­lic from movie the­aters. On of­fer dur­ing the ’80s were films by in­creas­ingly apo­lit­i­cal in­tel­lec­tu­als, pro­duc­tions star­ring arabesque croon­ers -- then the cham­pi­ons of the dis­tressed and the de­spon­dent -- and so­called “women’s films” This last genre, de­spite the

on­go­ing chaos, rep­re­sented an ex­pres­sion of the lib­er­a­tion of ur­ban women; with the fall of Yeşilçam they grasped the op­por­tu­nity to eman­ci­pate them­selves from the dom­i­nant male per­spec­tive. This was also an ex­pres­sion of the gen­eral ap­pear­ance of the ’80s. In Nur­dan Gür­bilek’s words, the ’80s un­veils a pic­ture of Turkey as “com­pris­ing two dis­tinct worlds”; an era of dual ten­den­cies. To fur­ther quote Gür­bilek: “On the one side you had Turkey as the land of pos­si­bil­ity, en­gen­der­ing a rel­a­tive free­dom born out of eco­nomic lib­er­al­ism, one in which a great many things could be ex­pressed ver­bally and dis­cussed and ground down as in­for­ma­tion by the me­dia, and where the emer­gence of ad­ver­tis­ing pop­u­lar­ized the ‘im­age’; and on the other you had Turkey as a coun­try where po­lit­i­cal dis­course was be­ing cur­tailed by le­gal re­stric­tions, a bloody war was be­ing waged and cen­sor­ship and tor­ture were com­mon­place” (“Vitrinde Yaşa­mak” (Life on Dis­play), Metis Yayın­ları, 1992, p. 8).

While the trau­ma­tiz­ing ef­fects of the coup and the op­pres­sive regime and vi­o­lence dom­i­nated the first half of the ’80s, the sec­ond half was de­fined by a dis­course that was rel­a­tively mod­ern and lib­eral. From the mid1980s on­wards in par­tic­u­lar this po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, steered by the lib­eral poli­cies of Turgut Özal’s Moth­er­land Party (ANAP), made it eas­ier to pro­duce films deal­ing with Sept. 12. Films of note de­pict­ing the Sept. 12 years in­clude Şerif Gören’s 1986 film, “Sen Türkü­lerini Söyle” (You Sing Your Songs), based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of the lead character who, after serv­ing his prison sen­tence for in­volve­ment in the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil prior to Sept. 12, is forced to deal with the changes un­der­gone by his fam­ily; “Prenses” (Princess) (Si­nan Çetin, 1986), which makes the claim that left­ist mil­i­tants were re­spon­si­ble for the coup; “Dikenli Yol” (Barbed Road) (Zeki Alasya, 1986), which re­lates the dra­matic story of the main character, re­spon­si­ble for his brother’s death due to his in­volve­ment in the po­lit­i­cal events pre­ced­ing Sept. 12, and his jour­ney to the big city; “Su Da Ya­nar” (Wa­ter Also Burns) (Ali Öz­gen­türk, 1987), which at­tempts to con­vey a di­rec­tor’s take of the events that un­folded on Sept. 12; “Sis” (Fog) (Zülfü Li­vaneli, 1988), which tells the story of how a fam­ily is trans­formed dur­ing the years 1960 to ’78 and their cri­sis of faith in the gov­ern­ment; and “Av Za­manı” (A Time for Hunt­ing) (Er­den Kıral, 1988), which ques­tions the is­sues of vi­o­lence and ter­ror by ex­pound­ing on the ironic sit­u­a­tion of a writer who, ty­ing to es­cape the po­lit­i­cal disorder of the time, fails to avoid ter­ror­ism.

While none of th­ese films di­rectly ad­dresses the coup of Sept. 12, all the sto­ries con­tained in them are set against the back­drop of that spe­cific era. With the ex­cep­tion of Çetin’s “Prenses,” ev­ery one of th­ese films holds an openly crit­i­cal view of the coup. And yet none of th­ese films ap­proach the Sept. 12 coup in terms of cause and ef­fect. In­stead, they ad­dress the psy­chologi-

cal im­pact on the pub­lic rather than the coup’s ori­gins. In this sense “Sis” can be con­sid­ered top of its class, in that it best sum­ma­rizes the gen­eral view­point and stance em­bod­ied by films deal­ing with the Sept. 12 coup. As Hilmi Mak­tav ob­serves in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the pe­ri­od­i­cal, Birikim, (“Türk Sine­masında 12 Eylül” (Sept. 12 in Turk­ish film), Birikim, No. 138, Oc­to­ber 2000, p.80), by blam­ing a sys­tem to­tally re­moved from any ide­o­log­i­cal ba­sis, Li­vaneli speaks from a view­point that tran­scends all ide­ol­ogy. The film’s main char­ac­ters are not the only ones obliv­i­ous to the iden­tity of their op­pres­sors. So too the au­di­ence, after view­ing “Sis,” is un­able to as­cer­tain who its op­pres­sors are or why the coun­try was forced to en­dure the events of Sept. 12.

While films about Sept. 12 tend to be crit­i­cal and anti-mil­i­taris­tic, they nonethe­less re­main movies that fail to de­ci­pher the sys­tem or con­vey the story of the coup and its con­se­quences. Yet another short­com­ing of th­ese films is the way they han­dle their char­ac­ters. Char­ac­ters, whether of left­ist or right­ist per­sua­sion, lack depth and oc­cupy a car­i­ca­tur­ized role. In terms of ide­ol­ogy their char­ac­ters seem to be an­cil­lary to plot, and there ap­pears to be almost no con­nec­tion be­tween their pol­i­tics and their ex­is­ten­tial out­look. Although char­ac­ters ap­pear to be mem­bers of the clas­sic Yeşilçam “good old boys” club, tak­ing is­sue with the coup and fa­vor­ing paci­fism, the films im­part ab­so­lutely no in­for­ma­tion as to why they have sided with their cho­sen fac­tion, be it left or right. They come across as ex­ten­sions of typ­i­cal Yeşilçam lads, whole­some and well-raised. Their de­fense of rev­o­lu­tion­ism is merely an off­shoot of pre­vail­ing con­di­tions; the ide­o­log­i­cal di­men­sion of their iden­tity car­ries lit­tle im­por­tance. So while films about Sept. 12 were made in the post-Yeşilçam era, they

nonethe­less over­lap with Yeşilçam’s ex­ist­ing model of melo­drama. Just as with their ap­proach to the Sept. 12 coup, the man­ner in which they han­dle their char­ac­ters is also em­phat­i­cally shal­low and fraught with cliché.

Dis­con­nected, im­po­tent men

The defin­ing in­flu­ence of the Sept. 12 coup on char­ac­ters in Turk­ish cin­ema is dis­cernible in Turk­ish films of the 1990s. Films such as “Anayurt Oteli” (Main­land Ho­tel) (Ömer Kavur, 1987) and “Herş­eye Rağ­men” (In Spite of Ev­ery­thing) (Orhan Oğuz, 1998) were strik­ing ex­am­ples of the path Turk­ish cin­ema was tak­ing. How­ever, “Bekle Dedim Göl­g­eye” (I Asked the Shadow to Wait), a film di­rected by Atıf Yıl­maz in 1990 that fol­lowed a spate of his “women’s films” in the ’80s, points to a break with tra­di­tion. The film re­counts the story of four dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als of the ’68 gen­er­a­tion in the lead up to the’80s, in­clud­ing their im­pris­on­ment, tor­ture and ul­ti­mate es­trange­ment from so­ci­ety. In ad­di­tion to the back­drop of the coup, the film also demon­strates the in­creas­ing apoliti­ciza­tion of so­ci­ety. When viewed in this con­text, Ze­bercet in “Anayurt Oteli” and the char­ac­ters of “Bekle Dedim Göl­g­eye” follow in the foot­steps of Turk­ish au­thors like Yusuf Atıl­gan and Oğuz Atay in sig­nal­ing the as­cen­dance of the “dis­con­nected” as the dom­i­nant male role of the ’90s.

Un­der­lin­ing the ex­is­ten­tial woes of th­ese au­thors’ char­ac­ters, the ’90s cor­re­spond to a time in which so­ci­ety is rapidly frag­mented and di­vided; the con­flict be­tween so­ci­ety and the in­di­vid­ual grad­u­ally peaks and peo­ple are over­whelmed by an on­slaught of change. As the older gen­er­a­tion deals with the dis­ap­point­ment of a de­feat re­moved from all ideals, the new gen­er­a­tion at­tempts to use this dis­en­chant­ment to de­fine it­self. But as Zahit Atam ar­gues, “The aes­thet­ics and dy­nam­ics of es­cape were very pow­er­ful in Turkey, be­cause the restora­tion of so­ci­ety failed to follow this de­feat.” (“Yakın Plan Yeni Türkiye Sine­ması” (A Close-up of New Turk­ish Cin­ema), Cadde Yayın­ları, 2011, p. 123). As such, the films of the ’90s are about char­ac­ters un­able to keep up with the pace of changes pre­cip­i­tated by the ’80 coup and its af­ter­math; peo­ple who be­gin life hav­ing al­ready lost and are un­able to over­come their ex­is­ten­tial angst.

Char­ac­ters desperately try­ing -- and fail­ing -- to break away from Yeşilçam in the ’80s reap­pear in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent guise in the ’90s in the hands of direc­tors who are them­selves in­flu­enced by the Sept. 12 coup. Just as in Yıl­maz’s “Bekle Dedim Göl­g­eye,” male char­ac­ters of the ’90s, in ad­di­tion to be­ing apo­lit­i­cal char­ac­ters bereft of belief in so­ci­ety, are trou­bled he­roes with fam­ily prob­lems, strug­gling to find mother-fa­ther sur­ro­gates. Im­po­tent and un­able to sus­tain func­tional re­la­tion­ships with the op­po­site sex, they trade in ac­tion for com­pla­cency; verg­ing on mad­ness, they are un­able to re­solve their psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues and use vi­o­lence as a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. They are con­tin­u­ously un­able to jus­tify their ex­is­tence and fail to ful­fill their role as sub­jects as they lose hold of their com­mu­nity and their lives.

When we con­sider mod­els of mas­culin­ity as cul­tural con­struc­tions and rec­og­nize the defin­ing im­pact ex­ist­ing cir­cum­stances (es­pe­cially times of cri­sis) have on “mas­culin­ity,” it is pos­si­ble to in­fer that the domi-


nant male roles in ’90s Turk­ish cin­ema were just as much an ex­pres­sion of the trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences and changes in so­ci­etal struc­ture (es­pe­cially in ma­jor ci­ties) in the wake of the ’80s, as they were a re­sponse to ’80s “women’s cin­ema.” The re­volt of ’80s fe­male char­ac­ters against Yeşilçam’s dom­i­nant male view and ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion, and the trauma ex­pe­ri­enced there­after by male char­ac­ters and at­tempts to al­le­vi­ate this by bring­ing male friend­ship to the fore­front in or­der to re­gain lost po­tency, man­i­fest them­selves as no­table trends from the ’90s through to to­day.

From the ’90s to now: lost men, silent women

The early ’90s saw the found­ing direc­tors of what is called “New Turk­ish Cin­ema” make their de­but. Some of the pi­o­neer­ing films of this new era in­clude Zeki Demirkubuz’s “C-Blok” (C-Block, 1993), Yeşim Us­taoğlu’s “İz” (The Track, 1994), Nuri Bilge Cey­lan’s de­but short, “Koza” (Co­coon, 1995), Derviş Zaim’s “Tabutta Rö­vaşata” (Som­er­sault in a Cof­fin, 1996) and Reha Er­dem’s de­but short “A Ay” (1988). Haled, the

pas­sive male character in Demirkubuz’s “C-Blok,” ends up in a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion after los­ing his wits over Tülay. In Demirkubaz’s later film, “Ma­sumiyet” (In­no­cence, 1997), Yusuf is re­luc­tant to leave prison, while Bekir takes his own life be­cause of Uğur’s love. In his “Üçüncü Sayfa” (The Third Page, 1999), Isa, who learns that Meryem, for whom he has com­mit­ted an act of mur­der, is in­volved with some­one else, finds re­lief in sui­cide. The lead­ing character in the di­rec­tor’s “Yazgı” (Fate, 2001), adapted from an Al­bert Ca­mus novel, em­bod­ies the to­tal­ity of the apo­lit­i­cal, pas­sive, ex­is­ten­tial­ist, ni­hilist and im­po­tent char­ac­ters of the ’90s; he is, in a sense, Ze­bercet adapted for the 2000s. “İti­raf” (The Con­fes­sion, 2001) re­counts the story of a bour­geois cou­ple’s fal­ter­ing re­la­tion­ship and the dilemma that has be­fallen them. Nil­gün is un­able to con­fess her af­fair to her hus­band, Tay­lan. As a re­sult, Tay­lan takes his own life.

Op­po­si­tions in Cey­lan’s provin­cial tril­ogy, par­tic­u­larly “Mayıs Sıkın­tısı” (Clouds of May, 1999), are es­pe­cially note­wor­thy: Re­la­tion­ships be­tween the cen­tral and the provin­cial, man and na­ture, and fa­ther and son are con­veyed through con­trasts. Viewed to­gether, “Koza,” “Kasaba” (The Small Town, 1997) and “Mayıs Sıkın­tısı” uti­lize th­ese con­trasts to draw at­ten­tion to the in­di­vid­ual’s de­feat, il­lus­trated through male char­ac­ters with a ten­u­ous grip on life and a prob­lem­atic re­la­tion­ship with their fa­thers. “Uzak” (Dis­tant, 2002) un­cov­ers alien­ation, sup­pres­sion, and ex­ploita­tion as a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in dual re­la­tion­ships in mid­dle-class ur­ban life. Male char­ac­ters, un­able to main­tain con­trol over their lives, find them­selves an­chor­less. Atam’s thoughts on this last film are im­por­tant in that they high­light the fun­da­men­tal break­ing point of male char­ac­ters in the film: “‘Dis­tant’ be­gins on Sept. 12, 1980. What is dis­tant is not only the ideals from our past, but also our sense of self” (ibid., p. 188). Atam’s call­ing at­ten­tion to the date on which the film be­gins is ap­po­site: Demirkubuz’s films, men­tioned ear­lier, and Zaim’s “Tabutta Rö­vaşata” all em­body the same at­mos­phere and are dis­tinct in the way in which they de­pict sim­i­lar char­ac­ters in sim­i­lar prob­lem­atic sit­u­a­tions. The specter of Sept. 12 haunts all th­ese char­ac­ters, dis­tanc­ing them from so­ci­ety and all that comes with it; de­priv­ing them of their sense of be­long­ing, it aban­dons them to wan­der­ing the face of the earth.

Male and fe­male char­ac­ters in main­stream cin­ema

In ad­di­tion to in­de­pen­dent films, male char­ac­ters in the main­stream films of the ’90s and 2000s also at­tempt to re­cap­ture their po­tency through “male friend­ships.” The four male leads in “İstanbul Kanat­larımın Altında” (Istanbul Be­neath My Wings) (Mustafa Altıok­lar, 1996) can only muster the courage to defy their rulers after they have joined forces. “Eşkıya” (The Ban­dit) (Yavuz Tuğrul, 1996) de­picts the epic story of an undy­ing friend­ship be­tween two men. Baran and Cu­mali’s bat­tle against es­tab­lished or­der and au­thor­ity, in a sense, works to­wards im­mor­tal­iz­ing and restor­ing in­tegrity to the myth of the heroic male. The two gang­sters in “Karışık Pizza” (Mixed Pizza) (Umur Tura­gay, 1998); the two brothers in “Herşey Çok Güzel Ola­cak” (Ev­ery­thing’s Gonna be Great) (Ömer Vargı, 1998); the three brothers in “Balalayka” (Ali Öz­gen­türk, 2000); the old mil­i­tary bud­dies in “Deli Yürek: Bumerang Ce­hen­nemi” (Crazy Heart: Boomerang Hell) (Os­man Sı­nav, 2001); the two sworn en­e­mies in “Hemşo” (Ömer Uğur, 2000); the three friends in “Laleli’de Bir Az­ize” (A Saint in Laleli) (Ku­dret Sa­bancı, 1998); the neigh­bor­hood lads in “Bornova Bornova” (İnan Temelku­ran, 2009); and the two male room­mates in “Bizim Büyük Çare­si­zliğimiz” (Our Grand Despair) (Seyfi Teo­man, 2011)… All are rep­re­sen­ta­tions of a cri­sis of “mas­culin­ity” preva­lent since the ’90s.

While male ca­ma­raderie may take cen­tre stage in th­ese films, women tend to re­main in the wings. Fe­male char­ac­ters are of­ten for­eign and there­fore silent or tac­i­turn, serv­ing no func­tion in the nar­ra­tive, cre­at­ing prob­lems for the men, and de­picted as cor­rupt­ing and im­moral char­ac­ters. As Asuman Suner points out in her book “Hay­alet Ev” (The Ghost House): “Women as en­ti­ties are ab­sent from a world sat­u­rated with their images. The sto­ries are ex­plic­itly built around the ‘woman’s ab­sence.’ New Turk­ish Cin­ema

speaks through the si­lence of women. Time and again we en­counter mute women who have been re­peat­edly si­lenced and de­prived of their voice” (Metiş Yayın­ları, 2006, p. 29). Baran’s love in­ter­est in “Eşkıya,” Keje, is mute; the women of “Balalayka” are Rus­sian for­eign­ers, brought over as pros­ti­tutes, un­able to re­sist their fate -- the only fe­male character who speaks out against her des­tiny is shot dead. The si­lence of the Ro­ma­nian women in “Hemşo” and of the Ro­ma­nian girl, un­able to avoid be­ing raped by the ship’s crew, in “Laleli’de Bir Az­ize” and Ser­dar Akar’s “Gemide” (On Board, 1998), re­spec­tively, are buried in the nar­ra­tive. In “9” (Ümit Ünal, 2002) the story of a woman raped and sub­jected to vi­o­lence by peo­ple from her own neigh­bor­hood is once again told by that same neigh­bor­hood’s male in­hab­i­tants. The cen­tral fe­male character in “Dar Alanda Kısa Paslaş­malar” (Off­side) (Akar, 2000) is a pros­ti­tute who con­stantly finds her­self re­moved from the nar­ra­tive as the “other” and the “ex­ter­nal.” In “Mut­lu­luk” (Bliss) (Ab­dul­lah Oğuz, 2007), there are calls for Meryem to be killed for have be­ing raped, thereby dis­hon­or­ing the fam­ily; she is ex­pected to silently ac­cept her fate as a vic­tim of tra­di­tion.

Dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als, from Atay to new Turk­ish cin­ema

The fail­ure to de­pict fe­male char­ac­ters with the depth re­served for male char­ac­ters, and the ab­sence of women’s sto­ries and por­tray­als they can call their own, are in­di­ca­tions of the fail­ure of Turk­ish cin­ema to over­come the cri­sis of the ’80s in terms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The break­down and schism brought on by the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­ci­etal trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try is ap­par­ent in the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the char­ac­ters in th­ese films. Con­tem­po­rary Turk­ish film and Turk­ish lit­er­a­ture, there­fore, is led by the “dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als” of Yusuf Atıl­gan and Oğuz Atay. Th­ese men strug­gle to keep pace with mod­ern life and have dif­fi­culty fit­ting in, seem­ing to se­cretly en­joy the melan­choly that ac­com­pa­nies their soli­tude. Yusuf in “Yu­murta” (Egg) (Semih Ka­planoğlu, 2007), who moves from the prov­inces to the city but is un­able to set­tle in; Tay­fun Pirse­limoğlu’s epony­mous “Rıza” (2007), liv­ing in the city’s out­skirts and strug­gling to get by; his Reşat in “Pus” (Mist, 2009); the youth shat­tered by the Sept. 12 coup in “Bornova Bornova”; the fa­ther character in “Bahtı Kara” (Dark Cloud) (Theron Pat­ter­son, 2008), who can­not hold down a job or keep his fam­ily to­gether; Ege­men in “Karan­lık­tak­iler” (In Dark­ness) (Çağan Ir­mak, 2009), who is de­pressed and un­able to es­cape his over­bear­ing mother; Ke­nan in “Gişe Me­muru” (Toll Booth) (Tolga Karaçe­lik, 2010), who is crushed un­der the weight of his fa­ther’s au­thor­ity; and En­der and Çetin in “Bizim Büyük Çare­si­zliğimiz,” who only to­gether are able to deal with life’s tribu­la­tions: They are all vari­a­tions and adap­ta­tions of Atay’s “dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als.”

The Turk­ish cin­ema of Sept. 12 and beyond, there­fore, in­evitably avoids the in­flu­ence of direc­tors of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion (Ömer Lütfi Akad, Metin Erk­san, Halit Re­fiğ, Atıf Yıl­maz), in­stead trac­ing the steps of Atay, who best charts the ethos and mean­ing of the dev­as­ta­tion of the ’80s and gloomily re­counts the sto­ries of losers and dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als, and their ten­u­ous grip on life. The “bit­ter­sweet” tales of Yeşilçam and sto­ries of lives, seem­ingly con­sist­ing of events linked to­gether to form what Atay calls a se­ries of “come­dies of er­rors,” are cleansed of any comedic ap­peal and be­come man­i­fes­ta­tions of loss and de­feat.

The so­ci­etal and col­lec­tive trauma left in the wake of the Sept. 12 coup leads to the de­struc­tion of the in­di­vid­ual’s plane of ex­is­tence, their ac­cep­tance of de­feat and their build­ing an ex­is­tence on this ba­sis; all th­ese make the dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als the dom­i­nant char­ac­ters in both in­de­pen­dent and main­stream cin­ema. Char­ac­ters who re­peat­edly fail to be­come sub­jects are even­tu­ally ob­jec­ti­fied and fall by the way­side thanks to the trans­for­ma­tive and isolating in­flu­ence of mod­ern life and the big city. Thus all the char­ac­ters of New Turk­ish Cin­ema -- the cin­ema of a gen­er­a­tion trau­ma­tized by the mil­i­tary coup -- are “dis­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als.”


A be­hind the scenes shot dur­ing film­ing in the hey­day of Yeşil­cam, show­ing di­rec­tor Şerif Gören (cen­ter).

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