The love that came in from the cold
EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
The movie is the unlikely story between Turkish man and Ukrainian woman.It’s not uncommon for directors to experience a quiet demise after their debut features in Turkish cinema. So it’s a surprise to see a directing duo releasing their third feature in five years. Maryna Er Gorbach and Mehmet Bahadır Er are directing partners, as well as partners in real life.
Their debut “Kara Köpekler Havlarken” (Black Dogs Barking) of 2008, which premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, was released more than a year later in Turkish cinemas to much anticipation following some hype in Europe. The film took on a familiar theme of the last decade in Turkish cinema, the existential angst faced by second-generation immigrants to Istanbul and brought a fresh and edgy look at the economic and social collapse of a whole new class in big cities.
Cemal Toktaş and Volga Sorgu played Selim and Çaça, two young men in search of their big breaks as they continued their idle, macho existence. By day, they raised pigeons on their roof, and by night, they roamed the streets with their entourage. Getting in with the local mafia boss seemed to be the best path to affluence for the two friends. With a shooting style reminiscent of 1990s Tarantino movies and an authentic ear for the city’s underground slang, “Kara Köpekler Havlarken” generated many positive reviews upon its release.
Their second feature, “No Ofsayt” (No Offside) from 2010, was heralded as the first movie project of Turkey’s larger-than-life advertisement persona Ali Taran. Produced and written by Taran and directed by the duo, the football comedy was another take on the popular theme in Turkish cinema, the mishaps of the everyday Turkish man. The film starred Yıldırım Memişoğlu as Ali Tarantula, a variation on Memişoğlu’s unforgettable ad personality Ali Desidero of the 1990s – a figure created by Taran himself.
The couple’s third feature, the recent “Sev Beni” (Love Me) is yet another diversion from their debut, but arguably their best work as they tread in familiar waters. As the title implies, the film is a love story that is neither the melancholy-strewn tearjerker nor the crude romantic comedy the Turkish audience have become used to. At first glance, “Sev Beni” is the unlikely love story between a Turkish man and a Ukrainian woman, and the film is sure to make non-Turkish viewers associate the story with the directors, a real-life Ukrainian-Turkish couple.
Capturing the macho culture
For Turkish viewers, it’s not really an uncommon pairing in Turkey though, as many Turkish men fall for the women from Ukraine and Russia they first encounter as sex workers. What is unlikely here is the way the directors deal with the story, breaking the stereotypes and common conceptions on women from the cold, and the shallowness of Turkish men when encountering them. The film begins very much like the common conceptions and the urban tales of men taking off to Ukraine for sex tourism. Ushan Çakır’s Cemal is taken on such a tour to Kyiv by his relatives as the ultimate stag night before he’s sent off to an arranged marriage. In the cold of the city and the tense spirit of the journey, Cemal meets a Ukrainian woman, Sasha (Viktoria Spesivtzeva), where the two fall for one another with no common language but ample chemistry to connect them. The chemistry is believable – especially Çakır’s impressive take on the shy Cemal – and the dreamy white of Kyiv makes the love story all the more captivating. The problem in the film comes off in the tight structure of the movie, where the directors rush to complete the story as they had probably planned on paper, with no room for improvisation. The relief comes in the directing duo’s strength – which was likewise seen in both earlier movies – in recreating the macho culture with all its meaningless banter among men, as well as the realistic slang as supporting characters Güven Kıraç, Yavuz Bingöl breathe new life into scenes.
Breaking away from the typical parameters of the love story formula in Turkish cinema “Sev Beni” will definitely satisfy the autumn romantic.