Points for style and technique, as the whole film is shot in claustrophobic, hand-held close-focus, always looking at or through the eyes of the mesmeric, or mesmerized, Saul. When a truck is on the road and we see green trees pass by, the color takes us aback. What was missing, for me, was any empathy with the main character. I never understood why he adopted the boy who survived gassing as his “son,” nor why he was obsessed with providing him a proper burial, at the expense of his colleagues’ deaths or the larger massacre going on around him, let alone the risk to his own life. I could only understand him as a lunatic, which made sense of the final scene when he sees a boy he thinks is his son, even though the corpse he has been impossibly carrying on his shoulder has washed down the river. Thinking him a lunatic, however, robbed the movie of significance. I cared more for the rational prisoners who were plotting escape in horrifying circumstances against all odds, but they weren’t the filmmaker’s concern.
As I watched, I couldn’t figure out where the film was going, and at the end I was convinced that the director didn’t know either. Maybe it was just a diary of what life is like for women in repressive, backwards Turkey – horrible to imagine in a NATO nation in this day and age. In that case, the random little vignettes made some kind of sense. If, on the other hand, this was supposed to be a coming-of-age tale of the adorable Lale, I hate to think we left her on her own in Istanbul, with retribution or disillusionment her likely future. The sisters were sort of interesting, but not much more.
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