Turkey, 2007, 105 min, Turkish with English subtitles
Thursday, Oct. 1, 7 pm, North Shore Cinema
Sunday, Oct. 4, 11 am, Oriental Theatre
In the foreign film, Bliss, or Mutluluk, produced in conjunction with the Greek Film Centre, a young Turkish shepherdess who was sexually assaulted comes to terms with honoring her rural village tradition of “tore” that condemns her to death.
While such ancient customs often remain appalling to modern, Western eyes, this film suggests that their continued existence affects countless young women around the world.
After first being given a rope to hang herself to avenge her family’s honor, Meryem (Ozgu Namal), 17, knows that the heinous task will actually fall to her distant cousin, Cemal (Murat Han). And despite her predetermined fate, this naïve girl refuses to name her accuser, even though it might save her life.
Based on the novel Bliss by Zulfu Livaneli, the story visually unfolds with Meryem lying splayed across the sand, her body angled near the Mediterranean Sea. With her bruised face and matted hair, she is left for dead until her father discovers she’s still alive. When the village delivers her death sentence for her “crime,” Meryem journeys to Istanbul with her to-be assassin Cemal.
In cosmopolitan Istanbul, the movie’s suspense contrasts its title. Cemal struggles with this horrible family dictate, but in resisting cultural traditions, he and Meryem become fugitives in an unknown world, culturally and geographically. At times, the sparse dialogue and metered filming also convey this.
Along the way, there is adventure. The pair accepts the invitation to travel with a professor (Talat Bulut) who is on his own journey across the globe. It’s on this sailing jaunt that countless cultural divisions are exposed; the pair discovers personal freedom; and Meryem blossoms under the professor’s kindness.
Throughout the movie, each of these characters struggles with dilemmas and personal demons in their search for bliss. The youthful actress’ dark features express her reticent joy, often through gestures.
Simple string orchestrations and melodic chants add a tender accompaniment to the film’s provocative theme. And, while the pace ocasionally lags, the story culminates with subtle surprises.
The film’s redemptive theme will resonate with all cultures, especially in defining the purpose and place of time-honored traditions. Even those who appear completely abhorrent find ways to redefine life’s meaning in this tale.
How did you like the movie? What did you think of Namal’s performance?