Documentary to show creation of Pamuk's museum

Documentary to show creation of Pamuk's museum

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Documentary to show creation of Pamuks museum


A new documentary film on the making of Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence details how a book character’s obsession became transferred to its author.

Produced and directed by Demet Haselçin from the Turkish state channel TRT, “The Museum of Innocence Documentary” will be aired on TRT Türk and streamed over the channel’s website Thursday, May 10 at 9 p.m. The documentary project dates back to the end of 1999, when Pamuk phoned Haselçin to ask her to do the documentary before he had even begun writing the novel.

“That phone call changed my life. That is how I see it. I was directing and producing this literature program on TRT 2 entitled ‘Okudukça’ (As We Read). Pamuk called me and talked about his plans for the novel and the museum, asking me to document the latter’s making from scratch. That is how I started in 2000. At the time, I thought I would use it as part of my literature program, which was withdrawn from the screen around four years ago now,” Haselçin said.

In 2002 Pamuk put the project on hiatus for many reasons, including lawsuits brought against him and a creative writing class he began to teach at Columbia University. He resumed the project in 2010 and Haselçin took the idea to her editor-in-chief at TRT Türk, Ümit Sezgin, who ended up supporting the project with the same zeal Haselçin felt. “If it had not been for his consent and support, the project could have never reached the scale it has now. We might only be broadcasting it as a teaser on one of the channel’s programs,” she said.


Demet Haselçin (L) and Pınar
Yakışklı started editing the film
and the shooting was finished in
late March, right before the
museum was finished. ‘We had
already begun editing while the
camera crew was still working in
the museum,’ they say.

When the team returned to filming footage for the documentary they realized they needed to plan the narrative structure of the film. Here Pınar Yakışıklı, the documentary’s second director, came up with a plan. “We thought the documentary should include the novel as well, because all aspects are intertwined in this museum project.”

To properly plan the documentary’s narrative Yakışıklı had to read Pamuk’s novel “The Museum of Innocence” again, despite having read it when it was first published in 2008. “I read it again a few more times,” she said. “Then I remembered Orhan Pamuk speaking to our cameras about his own choice of exposition methods. He said that he preferred to make a picture, a composition, using the exhibition items, rather than displaying them in a military row. And I followed his example [for the narrative].”

The team agreed to use a more lively narrative structure, rather than a traditional linear narration of the museum’s founding. “Then we agreed that we should make room for Kemal Basmacı [the novel’s main character] in the documentary as well. It was his museum, after all.” To accomplish this, the documentary employs quotes from the novel, particularly from passages where Basmacı talks about the museum, as part of its narrative structure. Basmacı appears in the documentary through a voice-over by Hakan Gerçek. “We intertwined two narratives here, one is by Kemal and the other is the presentation by the novel’s author: Orhan Pamuk.”

The documentary shows Pamuk being so acute and precise about every detail, from the architectural “stage” of the museum to the preparation of the display units and even of the museum catalog, which he made himself. The making of the museum shows Basmacı’s obsession with Füsun slowly changing shape and being scrutinized through Pamuk’s obsession with building the perfect museum, which aims to showcase daily life in Istanbul in the 1970s and 80s.

20 hours of footage

According to technical details provided by Haselçin and Yakışıklı, the 60-minute documentary was edited down from 20 hours of footage over the course of two months.

It was not easy for the team to start, stop and resume again, and to develop a narrative scheme, after the footage had already begun to be filmed.

“There are 80 display units in the museum, all full of Füsun’s belongings, collected by Pamuk over 12 years. There was too much to show, so we had a hard time deciding which items or bits we should focus on. We had to leave out as much as we included, and we regretted some things among those we left out, to be honest.”