Mismatch of fantastic and comedy in Turkish cinema

Mismatch of fantastic and comedy in Turkish cinema

Emrah Güler ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Mismatch of fantastic and comedy in Turkish cinema

‘Süper İncir’ (Super Fig) sees a mummy come to life in an Aegean village in Turkey after spending thousands of years in a tomb.

It is not the first time mummies are claiming the streets of Turkey in cinema. And it is not the first time mummies (or anything fantastic) are included in the story of a Turkish film for no apparent reason, or any effect for that matter. This week’s “Süper İncir” (not the greatest name in cinema history, Super Fig) sees a mummy come to life in an Aegean village in Turkey after spending thousands of years in a tomb.

Written and directed by newcomer Kerem Sarı, the film, in a nutshell, is the story of a love triangle hoping to get some laughs by playing on the Aegean region’s cultural eccentricities, albeit mostly shallow and stereotypical scenes and one-liners, along with a dose of the fantastic. The two men competing for the love of the fresh-faced Hatice is the naïve and weak Mustafa, and Seikilos, rising from his tomb to go after a young woman.

Character development is lazily left to the fantastic, Seikilos being the mummy, Mustafa gaining much-needed self-confidence not through what life (or the story) brings, but by eating a magical fig, more like an aphrodisiac of some sort. The Aegean dialect used in its most exaggerated form is mostly confusing, used not for the sake of authenticity, but to generate laughs through an outdated sense of humor that feeds on discrimination. “Süper İncir” is not the first film in Turkish cinema not to make the fantastic the backbone of the story, but to cash in on the supernatural for some laughs. The 2002 “Mumya Firarda” (Runaway Mummy), directed by Erdal Murat Aktaş, featured the mummy in the title being smuggled from Egypt to Turkey to help solve the erection problems of a mafia boss, scoring a 1.7 in the ultimate movie database, IMDb, a near miss in its Bottom 100.Vampires, similarly, were invited to Turkish cinema in the last couple of years, mainly to repeat the cliché, the garlic, the crucifix and the satin cloak, for tired send-ups that would hopefully be fresh in the audience’s mind from TV and movie favorites like “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries” and the “Twilight” series.

Tired vampire cliché

The 2011 comedy “Kutsal Damacana: Dracoola” (Holy Carboy: Dracoola), directed by Korhan Bozkurt, was a rich girl-poor boy love story where the legendary bloodsucker came after the unsuspecting leading man for being the last in the bloodline of the count’s archnemesis from centuries back. Once again, the fantastic was used in the film to generate laughs with in-your-face send-ups.

Another vampire spoof was released last year, not unlike the films mentioned earlier. Directors Metin Koç and Ulaş Zeybek’s “Laz Vampir: Tirakula” featured Count Dracula as blood brothers with Sultan Mehmed II, the name thrown away for a bit of fancy historical reference. Historical references set as a backdrop were merely a jumble of half-baked, haphazard references from history and vampire fiction. The movie saw Dracula’s archenemy, the Ottoman vampire hunter Koçoğlu, bodysnatching an unsuspecting cab driver, and the rest you can imagine.

Turkish cinema, in fact, has quite a history of incorporating fantastic elements to comedies that quite often featured hapless male characters as the lead. The 1970s saw a bunch of witches in movies with titles like “Bewitched,” “Little Witch” and “The Adventures of Sweet Witch,” in which the sexy witches played with the naïve male characters’ insecurities for laughs.

Others, again in the 1970s, used the fantastic for male sexual fantasies, or more like a teen boy’s sexual fantasies. In 1977’s “Sihirli Gözlük” (Enchanted Glasses), the leading man’s fantasies came true with the help of a pair of glasses. “Aşk Şarabı” (The Wine of Love) of 1979 revolved around a love potion, an aphrodisiac to help men get lucky. And 1976’s “İntikam Meleği/Kadın Hamlet” (Angel of Vengeance/Woman Hamlet), directed by late master Metin Erksan, reimagined Shakespeare’s tragedy with a female Hamlet and a male Ophelia, with added fantastic elements to the mix. It might be time for Turkish cinema to leave the fantastic to Hollywood.