Turkish serendipity - Movies, Books and Music

I’m in an excellent mood today - a good thing to carry over into a monday morning that begins in less than 7 hours - and brings with it an unending list of things to do. Sigh.

But I’m drawing solace from this weekend , which was undoubtedly *very* productive when it comes to music, film and books. I watched two excellent movies - Head On (Gegen Die Wand, 2005) and No Country for Old Men (2007); discovered the intricate music scene of one of the world’s greatest cities through another (Istanbul, Crossing the bridge), and as a result, have fallen in love with this band (Siya Siyabend); AND am finally half way through a book describing the same - Istanbul, by Orhan Pamuk. I must admit, these are things I’ve been meaning to do independently for quite a while now - but its interesting how the common thread that links them together surfaced serendipiteously!

Head On is a movie I highly recommend you watch. Apart from having the street creds of having being directed by Turkish born Fatih Akin, one of Germany’s star directors; a nomination at the oscars, and a cast which has performed exemplarily - it is an extraordinarily striking movie in the way it depicts the clash of two cultures, and describes the lives of immigrants in a form which hollywood, let alone bollywood can never hope to achieve. Szerelem talks about the story here; it is essentially a love-story between two turkish immigrants living in Germany who meet, at all odds, at a clinic after unsuccessful attempts at suicide - Cahit, who tries to ram his car into a wall, and Sibel, who doesn’t quite know how to optimally slit her wrists (!). The movie is neither overtly dramatic nor sentimental - the tone is just right, and the locales it was shot in (and the absolutely amazing soundtrack) go far in convincing you that such characters can actually exist, marginalised between two cultures. As the movie progresses, you can observe how circumstances visibly mature what were at the beginning of the movie two very flippant human beings. A reviewer online said it best when penning “Akin has crafted an unflinching film with the structure of a romantic comedy and the emotional kick of a nightmare”. Very true. You can totally gauge the tension which springs from the wish to have nothing to do with your own culture, yet have a longing that just won’t let go - beautifully illustrated when Cahit suddenly slips into English when talking to a turkish woman in Istanbul - his transformation from a hard-drinking, punk-rocker to one who is visibly caught between different worlds is complete.

What is even more interesting, however, is the uncanny likeness of the characters to their real life counterparts. At the very beginning when Cahit (Birol Ünel ) is completely drunk, he wasn’t acting. Ünel WAS in fact sloshed waiting for the shooting to start! And during the filming, he was even told by his doctor to give up alcohol, or risk death by liver failure. Scary. Sibel, the actress who also shares her first name with her on screen persona was recently outed by a german tabloid for having been a porn star a few years ago. This led to some tense moments, when she was all but publicly disowned by her family - an eerie reflection of what her character goes through in the movie. Before this turns into yet another movie review, I’ll just end by saying - go watch!

Which brings me to No Country - another excellently executed movie which in my opinion should win an Oscar whenever it gets nominated for one. Not if, but when. Theres’s the gratuitous violence (bone sticking out of an arm?), the nail-biting-edge-of-the-seat action, and very beautiful cinematography of the texan desert. Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are awesome - but the real show stealer is Javier Bardem, who plays a psychopathic killer named Anton Chigurh, that makes Hannibal Lecter look like your favorite grandma on a sunny afternoon. Of course, being a Coen brothers movie, it has its own brand of an “OhMyGod” ending (the very words someone shouted in the theater as the movie ended) - and I most definitely agree.

Continuing on the Istanbul theme - “Crossing the bridge” is an excellent documentary on the music scene. It led me to discover Siya Siyabend, an unofficial band comprising of buskers off the streets of Istanbul. Named after a mesopotamian folk hero (Siyabend), the name of the band is actually that of its lead musician. Not only is he a fabulous guitarist and singer, his virtuosity with the toor (also known as the Santur in India and elsewhere) is phenomenal. Check out the clip below, where he’s collaborated with Alexander Hacke, a german bass guitarist. But more on their music in a later post!


iz said...

I LOVE the new look!

That Armchair Philosopher said...

@iz - welcome back :D you've been gone a loong time haha. and thanks!