• Datum 16-01-2014
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There is a thread of melancholy embedded in Turkish cinema. From the mid-90’s, when it witnessed a remarkable resurgence, a new generation of filmmakers has been injecting melancholia into their narratives. They portray characters searching for a modern identity and longing to belong, and tell stories of struggle and homesickness. Bearing traces of the melodramatic tradition of the Ye?ilçam era, Turkish cinema’s golden age, what binds these films with different styles and contents is a feeling of melancholy running through them.
We cannot merely define this melancholy as a disease of the soul. It is a human condition shaped by social and cultural forces, a discomfort where the subject is incapable or unwilling to conform to social rules and customs. This condition can even lead to a collective dissent. Both urban and rural stories of the New Turkish Cinema reflected feelings of apathy, boredom and sorrow. As the most celebrated director of this movement, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s minimalist cinema does not romanticize the simple and slow-paced rural life, nor does it use the timeless rural landscape to catch his characters’ discomfort. It’s more like an inward-looking mood, evident in his films Clouds of May and Distant, but also in Three Monkeys, a noirish tragic tale of a working-class family in Istanbul.
Melancholy is combined with a guilt-complex in the cinema of Zeki Demirkubuz, one of the pioneering auteurs of the same wave. His masterpiece, Innocence, tells about the misery of three characters cast out by society. Trying to grasp the dark side of modern man, Demirkubuz is always on the side of his ‘losers’. The melancholy in Innocence can be considered as both lamenting the loss of love and constructing the rural as an escape from big city melodrama. While Ye?im Ustao?lu explores tristesse in dramas unfolding in families, lack of communication and detachment from one’s home, Reha Erdem’s cinematic sensibility is honed at his captured moments of great beauty, where the melancholic is more poetic.
In the 2000’s the dividing line between rural and urban became less clear. The meanings attached to these terms are evolving, so the dynamics of urban and provincial characters’ became a principal cause of aggravating inner melancholies. For instance Mahmut Fazil Coskun’s 2013 film Yozgat Blues tells the story of Yavuz, a musician from Istanbul forced to relocate to a Turkish province, in a bittersweet mood. Another example is Onur Ünlü’s fantastical fable Thou Gild’st the Even, about a barber who falls in love and tries to make sense of life in a village where all the residents have supernatural powers. As a postmodernist film with the tagline "man is created from anxiety", it takes the mix of melodrama and absurdity to a new level.
Sure enough, 2014 will also show new characters who cannot cope with socio-economic norms, fast changing realities and expectations of capitalist happiness.

Müge Turan is head of film programming at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and a freelance film critic for a variety of publications