Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Review | "Barda' And justice for all

(Serdar Akar)

And justice for all
Friday, February 2, 2007

Though it does not quite quench the thirst of a violence-seeking audience, Akar’s ‘Barda’ adequately raises the question of just how well the Turkish judiciary system works and where one can look for justice


Serdar Akar's latest film, 'Barda' (In the Bar) which opens today in Turkish movie theaters, claims to be the most violent Turkish film ever made.

The young director's previous feature film was 'Kurtlar Vadisi Irak' (Valley of the Wolves: Iraq), which attracted a lot of attention, especially in the U.S. media, with its portrayal of Americans in Iraq as a corrupt, kidney-trafficking, Muslim-torturing, sadistic lot. It was a Rambo rip-off that created a lot of stir among young people, including Americans, who took seriously the Polat Alemdar character (the leading character in the film's famous TV series.) In fact, the film was far from serious or convincing with its childish portrayal of good and evil.

Childish portrayal:

The same childish portrayal of good and evil is again at work in Barda. The good 'kids' are a bit too good. The young girl, Nil, is still a virgin, and her boyfriend is, too. Not only that, but he is a very skilled soccer player, something to carry a young man his age to a hero status, in a country where soccer is everyone's beloved sport, almost a national obsession. Among their group of friends, one couple has 'sinned' - she is pregnant out of wedlock. Well, they are still 'good kids' after all, so they decide to get married, which again places them squarely in the '�good kids' camp. It is only the character TGG (short for 'tekrar gözden geçirme' or 're-evaluation') who is skeptical and bitter about everything. He pays dearly for his skepticism and questioning - the group gets into trouble because of him and in the end he is punished for his 'sins.' The lesson here? "Be good and stay good, do not question too much!

Attempt at Turkish Tarantino:

The same stereotypical portrayal applies to the �bad� characters also. They are a sadistic, alcohol-drinking, ecstasy-popping, ugly, raping lot with leading 'baddie' Selim wearing a black 'wife beater,' sleeveless undershirt. They have nothing human about them, they are just 'bad.' Even though the film attempts to be a 'Turkish Tarantino movie,' this portrayal of characters prevents it. While Tarantino's evil characters have a comic, 'cool,' almost likable personalities, which make possible for the audience to identify with them, Barda's baddies are so cliché that it is impossible to like them. The same goes for the 'good kids' also - their personalities are rigidly good, so the viewer cannot identify with them either. At the end of the day, the audience is left not being able to identify with either the good or evil sides, unable to see the events in the film from any point of view, and this in return alienates them, making the film less credible.

Not violent enough:

'The film is far from imbuing the viewer with the fear of a truly violent movie. A feeling of disgust? Yes. There are so many scenes of blood and rape that at the end of the film, the viewer almost becomes accustomed to them. Actually, one leaves the theater feeling the movie was not violent enough. But that is the effect of seeing too much blood: if some of the violence was withheld and not shown, then the audience would have the opportunity to use its imagination and fill in the blanks with much more violent scenes than a camera can show. The only scene where this is achieved is where the 'Patlak' character is literally slicing Pelin, the pregnant girl, into pieces with a razor blade. All the while, we only see his arm moving and the sadistic satisfaction on his face as we hear Pelin's screams. It achieves its blood-curdling aim, just like the ear-cutting scene in Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs.'

Failure of penal system:

But besides the aimless blood and gore, the movie also wants to highlight the failure of the Turkish penal system. The casualties at the end of the night are as follows: two are killed, another crippled, all the women raped, and all of the 'good kids' very badly beaten up. They are no longer who they used to be - they are robbed of their normal lives. During the court scenes and the conversations between the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense lawyer, we learn that the judicial system does not depend on the people's conscience and it will not serve to satisfy it. The judge insists that the laws will decide the sentences. And it does - the outcome is not only unjust and insufficient but also comical in the sense that it punishes the innocent as much as the guilty. Not being able to put his conscience to rest and having sworn to become Selim's 'darkest nightmare,' the prosecutor takes things into his own hands.

Well, justice has a strange way of finding its own path in Turkey. ... The much-discussed honor killings do not only apply to women but also to men. The worst crime to go to jail for is rape. It is a known fact that the inmates do not like rapists and that they take the justice process into their own hands to punish the felon. It is sort of an honor killing, where the dishonoring party (the rapist) gets killed. This is exactly what happens in the movie, with a little help from the prosecutor. So, it is justice for all, in a country where the court justice has failed.

Barda, currently available only in Turkish without subtitles, premiers in ­movie theaters around Turkey today.

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