Townsfolk go off on quest in ‘Search Engine’

Townsfolk go off on quest in ‘Search Engine’

Emrah Güler
Townsfolk go off on quest in ‘Search Engine’ Director, writer and producer Atalay Taşdiken once again takes an idyllic Anatolian town as the setting for his feature film, this time veering away from his previous dramas to comedy. Hitting the theaters this week, “Arama Motoru” (Search Engine) portrays the residents of a small town from different generations, each searching for something different.

At the center of the film are the oldest and the youngest, Musa Dede, the elderly man of the town searching for a wife and a partner that will take care of him. At the opposite end of the scale is the young, technology-savvy entrepreneur Sırrı. Giving the film its name, the search engine is the ultimate window to a bigger world, even if bigger means just outside the town.

Through his personal computer and smart phone, Sırrı takes on the quest of each of the town’s folks and hopes to use the search engine to make their dreams come true. The idea is to make some quick cash by realizing the townsfolk’s dreams, and make his way to the love interest he has found through, where else, the internet.

Sırrı is the mayor’s son, and the ambitious mayor is in the search for water. With the eager residents behind him, he goes from one location to another drilling to find water, hoping to keep the promises he had made before the elections. Hasan “the wretched” is searching for esteem, hoping to get rid of the moniker he has inherited from his father. 

Another moniker given to one of the town’s men is “Lawless;” his search is for treasure, literally. His hopes are under the ground, looking for the rumored treasure buried under the town. Retired teacher Fahri, who is supposed to be making some extra money helping his wife in the strawberry fields, instead goes to the town’s coffee house, searching for trouble.

As the stories of each character interweave with one another, there is one character that takes everything in from a distance. Mahmut is the mad man of the town, the only person everyone is apprehensive of. As the stories unfold, Mahmut takes on a more important role, becoming the only one in the town that is not searching for something.

Hopeful picture of a small town

Mahmut feels the closest to the characters in Taşdiken’s previous films “Mommo” (Mommo – the Bogeyman) and “Meryem,” both tales of innocence lost, both about suffocating lives in small Anatolian towns, and both about children having to grow up before their time. Mahmut feels like a character from Taşdiken’s earlier films, this time, an adult that has somehow stayed a child.

“Mommo” is the story of 9-year-old Ahmet, who is forced to take responsibility as the elder brother to his sister, Ayşe, as the siblings are separated from their father. With a new stepmom in the picture, the two now live with their grandfather. The Mommo of the title is the bogeyman adding further fear to Ayşe’s unstable life. “He’s not real. Dad made him up to scare us,” Ahmet tells his sister, unable to deal with his own fears.

In Taşdiken’s sophomore feature “Meryem,” the titular character is wed to Mustafa in a hurry as a favor to save her from the burden of finding a suitor herself. It’s a favor because Meryem’s father is dead, and her father-in-law is an old friend of her father’s. Meryem moves in with her in-laws as her husband takes off for Istanbul. She soon becomes the dutiful housewife with no husband in the picture.

The film sees Meryem pile pebbles into a jar for each day her new husband is away from her. Things are further complicated when her old flame Murat returns from the army. He comes back with his love for Meryem stronger, his psyche bruised from his experience in the army. An impulsive and broken man becomes the ultimate threat for this newly married young woman.

In both “Mommo” and “Meryem,” the townspeople take important roles in the fate of the young protagonists, making their fragile and broken lives harder. In “Arama Motoru,” however, Taşdiken paints a more hopeful picture of a small Anatolian town, despite the shortcomings of the characters. The characters from his earlier films might have had better lives in “Arama Motoru.”