Friday, May 06, 2005

Ten Best Turkish Film | Hope (1970) by Yilmaz Guney

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HOPE (Umut)
Directed and written by Yilmaz Guney
Cast: Yilmaz Guney, Gulsen Alniacik, Tuncel Kurtiz, Osman Alyanak
1970, 100 minutes. Black and white.

Festivals and Awards: Best Film, Best Music, Best Script, Best Actor Awards in the Golden Cocoon (Altin Koza) Film Festival, Adana, Turkey; Special Prize in the Grenoble Film Festival

Synopsis: Hope has been named Turkish Cinema's best ever film in many previous polls. It does, in fact, represent a key turning point in Turkish filmmaking; one that, after The Ugly King (Çirkin Kral) marked the beginning of the Yilmaz Güney phenomenon. It is quite simply a masterpiece… Hope is also the first and most striking example of how deeply Güney was influenced by Italian Neo-Realism. Güney's association with neo-realism is manifested on screen in his stark portrayal of the lives of ordinary men, of the pitiful, oppressed masses; a portrayal devoid of cliché and artifice. But for Güney, neo-realism is more than mere inspiration. In this film, in particular, it becomes clear that he also made his own valuable contribution to the heritage.

Cabbar, a destitute carriage driver from Adana, leads a life of misery, struggling to make ends meet for his wife, ageing mother and five children. He invests all his hope in lottery tickets; only fortune never smiles on him. Cabbar is squeezed by his creditors, pushed around and humiliated. One of his horses dies; the creditors appropriate the other. In the end, his only way forward is to hunt for buried treasure under the directions of a hodja with powerful insight. And the second half of the film is given over to the search for the treasure. Yilmaz Güney depicts horrific poverty and despair in shockingly stark terms; a language hitherto unknown to Turkish cinema. But the starkness of his language does not prevent him reaching the kind of visual brilliance that can only be described as hair-raising. The portraits he sketches are so accomplished, the events he relates so moving, his critique of the emerging order so spot on and the 'cinema' he produces so powerful that it is impossible not to be thrown off-balance. It is equally hard to decide whether to feel disappointment or elation that this is merely a 'film'.

Yilmaz Güney writes, directs and performs in Hope. And he weaves a story of which he has first-hand experience… The realism he vests in the children, who are beaten for spending 25 piasters on hiring a bicycle, in the downtrodden women, in the dog that licks the spilt milk off the child, of the dead horse resonates like scream from the heart..

Hope is one of the unburied treasures of cinema history!

Tunca Arslan

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