Film promises an ‘impeccable’ look at women
EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
‘Kusursuzlar’ (The Impeccables), directed by Ramin Matin and written by Emine Yıldırım, was the winner of the best picture and director awards at the recent Golden Orange Film Festival. The film is a breath of fresh air to see a genuine directing-writing partnership.
Multi-layered, strong female characters are no longer a rare item in Turkish cinema. Working-class women, single mothers and child brides have been coming alive on screen for the last couple of years.
This week’s new release, “Kusursuzlar” (The Impeccables), is the latest in a string of female-driven movies that have impressed both the critics and the jury in national film festivals in the last year.
“Kusursuzlar,” directed by Ramin Matin and written by Emine Yıldırım, was the winner of the best picture and director awards at the recent Golden Orange Film Festival. The film, which is available with English subtitles, deserves accolades in many respects. First, in arguably a scene dominated by directors’ cinema where most films are “directed and written by” the same name, it is a breath of fresh air to see a genuine directing-writing partnership.
That takes us to the second point, that the filmmaking partnership is of a male director and a female screenwriter: It’s all the more important when the subject matter is the delicate relationship between two women and their demons. Having talked to both Matin and Yıldırım, Matin gave a pointer on his working relationship with Yıldırım.
“I’m very actively involved in the development of the scripts right from the start,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News. “I enjoy working with writers tremendously. I believe it makes the film richer and more multi-layered when you collaborate with people.”
The two have been working together in their production company Giyotin Film since 2005. “Ramin and I know each other very well and because we have already established our creative dynamics, it was very easy to partner up with him for this particular story,” said Yıldırım.
“The story’s particularities also made it quite easy for us as we both have siblings, and we discussed for a long time the nature of the sibling relationship,” Yıldırım said. “It was very important for us to stay true to the complexity of this relationship and resist simplifications.”
Going back or running from home
The particularities of the story direct us to the third reason for praise. Taking women and, not to give away any spoilers, violence against women as its focus, the story is not about the typical uneducated lower class or characters from rural areas. The characters are from the so-called urban bourgeoisie, the upper middle class, characters the art house moviegoers can easily identify with as opposed to leaving the theater as mere spectators.
“Kusursuzlar” begins with a sequence with a car ride through a tunnel, foreshadowing the haunting journey the two protagonists and the audience are about to take. Lale (İpek Türktan Kaynak) and Yasemin (Esra Bezen Bilgin) are two sisters, and the journey is to an idyllic Aegean town, to the summer house of their past.
Part family drama, part psychological thriller, we learn in the first minutes that something is off in the sisters’ relationship, and that they have come the only place close to home to mend something that is broken.
What is broken, and whether they will be able to mend it, becomes the backbone of the story. As we are introduced to the tension-filled dynamics between Lale and Yasemin, we are also introduced to the oppositions they embody in everyday life. Yasemin is the self-confident, outgoing one while Lale seems to be the bitter and introverted one.
Yasemin’s self-confidence extends to her relationship with and control of her body, while Lale hides in clothes that are from two generations previous. Yasemin finds it natural to connect with men, too comfortable for some people’s taste as we see in one scene, while Lale is timid and apprehensive of men, including the boyfriend she has left behind but who is not yet ready to leave her, which is made clear in the incessant unanswered phone calls.
Does ‘Kusursuzlar’ promise hope for women?
The hints of trauma (disguised at times as drama) are scattered skillfully as the story unfolds, increasing the tension, hence the psychological drama part of the movie. “Each sister has a completely different way of dealing with the trauma they have survived. Lale is constantly obsessing over what happened, and as a result, she’s getting more and more introverted, paranoid and afraid of anything outside the routine,” said Matin. “Yasemin is dealing with the issue by acting like it never happened. In order to do that, she is looking to external distractions as Lale is a constant reminder to her.”
Violence against women, the intricacies of family relations, taking responsibility, double standards in male-female relations and the public as male space are some of the issues addressed in the film, and most in nuanced details. Perhaps the main question with the premise of “Kusursuzlar” is whether it promises hope for women, or quite the opposite.
“I am absolutely against the notion that there is no hope for women. That is one of the reasons we made this film, to create and make visible complex female characters – more astutely to create genuine human beings who happen to be women,” said Yıldırım. Referring to the “patriarchal values embedded in culture, economy, societal norms and most importantly decision-making bodies,” Yıldırım said, “As long as the problem is made visible and tackled through different mediums, there will always be hope for equality.”
As for Matin, the picture is perhaps more bleak. “There has been an alarming and horrifying rise in the number of women subjected to all forms of violence and often killed in Turkey. It has become by far one of the biggest issues in Turkish society. It’s not looking very hopeful, unfortunately. People living in the big cities fool themselves by thinking that this is the problem of small villages and ghettos,” he said.
“We wanted to show that the fear of this violence is part of the daily life of all Turkish women even if they live in the posh neighborhoods of Istanbul,” Matin said.
That, they have done with skillful grace and to profound effect. To see that a male-female filmmaking partner has achieved that is a reason to hope itself.