Monday, October 20, 2014

Film Review: Fatih Akın's "THE CUT"

Shot from Fatih Akın's "THE CUT"

Yesterday was one of those truly delightful sunny days where I was torn what to do: Should I stay home and write? I have plenty on my deadline list. Should I organize film footage for future editing? Here too I could get lost and ease the load. Should I compose music, paint or do some digital art? I was actually inspired for all of it. But there was another voice, like a little Iblis whispering into my ear: "What about not doing any creative work and instead hit the street? Call it a day, get some exercise on your bike and enjoy the sunshine! Be lazy!" 

Resisting the little devil in my ear, I opted for a combination of some alternatives on my work front and went out a little later. And I'm glad I did. After all it was a lovely day to be out and I wouldn't be sitting here writing these lines because by coincidence I passed a cinema on my bike. I stopped and saw that Fatih Akın's latest film was showing. Since I do like this director I spontaneously decided to go to the evening show. 

"THE CUT" is a dramatic movie inspired by the Armenian genocide and I can highly recommend watching it. Of course that's my personal opinion, suiting my taste in films. As we all know we can have passionate discussions and arguments in pro and con about art, films, literature, music, food and personal opinions. And yes, I'm quite opinionated, even judgemental when it comes to art, films, literature, music, and food. And I do delight in defending my opinion, LOL. Mind you, I also gladly listen to yours and I do accept pluralism and diversity, not just in regards of standpoints. 

Let's get this straight, without foggy hesitations I'm giving a thumbs up vote for this in my eyes well-made epic drama shot in various international and most contrasting locations. A fact I especially enjoyed because I know how it feels trying to survive in most diverse cultural circumstances. It resonated with my personal nomad's song. Besides I do like global films. 

"THE CUT" also deserves praise because the director dares to deal with a theme that has been a taboo in Turkey for such a long time. Now Fatih Akın fortunately resides in Germany, where he definitely enjoys freedom of expression and his film being the result of a quite global international collaboration. I sincerely hope in Turkey too it will be shown and that many people see it, as there is a definite need to deal with the shadow side of things and face some not so blissful facts of the historic past. Facing the shadow is always required for a successful healing process! Even though it seems the current political climate in the Republic of Turkey is not exactly the most promising, also given that the influence of conservatism and even retrograde Islamism is unfortunately on the rise, and I fear the reaction to the film might not be the best as far as certain popular Turkish denial positions are concerned. Time will show and we shall see. I hope to be wrong on that, nice it would be. 

The film's plot starts in 1915, towards the final phase and heading to the ultimate collapse of the Ottoman Empire, a most multicultural, multi-ethnic, and above all multi-religious society. The main protagonist is a young Armenian blacksmith, Nazaret Manoogian, a Christian, played by Tahar Rahim. Nazaret lives with his beautiful wife and his lovely twin daughters in Mardin. The Turkish Ottoman authorities deport all the Armenian men from their homes, among them Nazaret, supposedly to join a military conscription. However, it soon becomes very clear what the Ottomans had in mind instead was forced labor at its worst, to be precise: slavery style! Many men die. 

At some point an offer is made to the Christian Armenians: Those who convert to Islam would be liberated. A few accept, but the majority refuse to change religion. Soon they are facing death in a most brutal and barbaric way. This sounds strangely familiar when facing the latest horror news about the wider area of this neighborhood in contemporary times regarding what is done to Yazidis, Alevites / Alawis, Shia Muslims, Sufis, captured journalists and aid workers, and even to other Sunnis who don't share a criminal ideology of hatred and barbaric murder! 

The Turkish man who was ordered to cut Nazaret's throat refuses to do so, he pretends and only injures him on his neck. Nazaret survives, however, his vocal cords are damaged and from that moment on he is mute. The Turk later returns with water to help him escape and under dramatic circumstances Nazaret temporarily even joins a group of Ottoman deserters. Then he continues his way alone and meets an Arab Muslim from Aleppo who gives him some food and takes him home. Nazaret finds out that his wife was killed but his daughters survived. To find and reunite with his children becomes the obsessive driving force of his life and it gets him across diverse places of Mesopotamia. 

The plot thickens and next thing Nazaret is on a ship heading to Cuba where his daughters are believed to have gone. His capability to learn and adjust to new circumstances is truly amazing, Nazaret comes across as a natural nomad who will weather any scenario. It turns out his daughters are no longer in Cuba, instead they continued to the USA. Nazaret faces another challenge to arrive in Florida and from there to Minneapolis, finally arriving in North Dakota...

The film is literally dramatic and by its very nature heavy with beautiful cinematography. The film's subtext is: No matter how hopeless a given situation comes across, there will always be some helpful souls, regardless of their religious or ethnic background - and there will be some barbaric ones, trying to hurt and degrade people. So don't give up and keep up the vision! And God bless the helpful folks encountered on the way!

Check the official trailor: