Caner MALKARALI || Articles

Some of my articles and short stories.

Index

Novel

Keskin Faik

 

Short Stories

Forty Licks

Arabesque

Love Story

A Writer's Dilemma

Shotgun

Fragments

 

Movie Reviews

The Public Enemy

The Searchers

Withnail and I

Sarı Zeybek

Superbad

Hannah and Her Sisters

Summer Pasture

Beeswax

Adam's Rib

Chungking Express

Çok Güzel Hareketler Bunlar

Valley of the Wolves (Kurtlar Vadisi)

Tender Mercies (First Act)

Se7en (Chase Scene)

Scarlet Street (Suicide Scene)

Breathless (Jump Cuts)

Head On (Bar Scene)

Ezel (Ramiz Dayı's Tavern Scene)

Fight Club (Final Scene)

The Godfather (Opening Scene)

The Shining (All work no play Scene)

 

Keskin Faik

Keskin FaikInspired by the stories of my grandfather, to whom the book is dedicated, I have written Keskin Faik: the novel of the Grandfather and the Child. The story passes before the eyes of the grandchild, telling his own grandson the story of his paradigmatic grandfather – par excellence. Focusing on the psychological effects of the significant events on his own life, he takes a journey from his childhood dreams to his youth.

The protagonist is the great-great grandfather, named Keskin Faik. Keskin is the agnomen of Faik from his vagabond years. He is a descendant of a dynasty whose members play significant roles in the high offices of the Ottomans: pashas, ministers and grand viziers. After his mother’s death, Faik is treated contemptuously by his step-mother, and at the end sidelined by mistreatment, and deprived of all the luxuries of the palace. He continues his life as a hell-raising fireman in Üsküdar. He then leaves Istanbul as a bandit for a small town, called Tekirdağ. He starts a new life away from the big city’s trouble. Eventually, a series of events leads Keskin Faik to become one of the strongest influential figures of the surrounding area of Thrace. By his own set of morals he helps the needy and the dependent, and chastens the ruthless. After living a long time, the old man becomes bed ridden, but yet is still respected by the community. He is looked after by his grandson.

The novel also shows the heart breaking events and the joys of Faik’s family in a tunnel of consecutive events in time: the memories of the grandson about his grandfather Keskin Faik, including the issues of ice cream, the precious ring and the holy book calligraphy with golden ink…

The novel characters are the extended reflections of the members of my family and the acquaintances I have encountered in my daily life. The action is also based on some stories and the eminent events of our family – converged with my imagination. While the grandchild figure especially resembles the conjoint characteristics of me and my grandfather, the great-great grandfather Keskin Faik acquires the attributes that I particularly admire or despise.


My novel, Keskin Faik, was published in the last quarter of 2008 and is on sale on the shelves of notable Turkish book stores and e-stores. A part of the incoming profits of the book was donated to Robert College Community Involvement Project Funds.

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Forty Licks

(Part 1)

FORTY LICKS

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a man of wealth and taste. I have been around for long, long years; stole many men’s soul and faith. I was around with everyone in their moments of doubt and pain. I made damn sure every soul suffer the hunger of the vain inner man. I have guided many puppets to the darkness of the light; trained many, many young men in the chronicles you and your kids read. Pleased to meet you; I hope you guessed my name. But, what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.

Life is a game or it might be a screenplay. My story had two leading actors: Polat, the taxi driver; and Azrail, my apprentice. The setting was perfect for a crime: a rainy summer night in Istanbul. Polat was sitting in his taxi, half asleep, listening to Turkish folk music. His cab was parked near an American college with its forest facing the beautiful Bosphorus. It was that special time of the afternoon when the sun was setting; the azan, call-to-prayer chants of imams from various mosques were mixing with the eerie sound of the church bell of that American college. Just as Polat moved to look back to the church to curse to the bell sound, he was stunned to see the pale man dressed all in white sitting on the back seat: “Oh, sorry sir, I did not see you back there. Where do you want to go?”

The man instructed, “Just drive straight ahead.”
Polat started his small talk to cease the awkward silence: “It is really hot, isn’t it?” The man back there did not answer. “Are you a college pupil or a teacher?”
“We are all pupils, aren’t we?” replied the man with a pathetic hoarse sound.
“Dude, if I were in college like you, I would just get a girl next door and take her to the woods. Then, I swear on my name, as Polat Bayraktar, I would…”
“Lust,” the man whispered.
“Yeah, at last, I would have twenty girls pregnant in a season.”
“Polat!” the man back there shouted. “What would you do if someone else made such comments about your sister and your mother?”
Polat shrugged, “Well, I don’t have a sister, and my mother was a whore before a son of an imam, probably my father, married her.”
The man commented: “That was a nice gesture of your father.”
“Yes, I think it was a nice gesture for him to shoot her with a rifle after my brother was born.”
“Why?” the man asked.
“Well, my brother is black. The only black man I have ever seen - before my brother - was an American tourist who visited our village. My mother had it coming.”
“Pride,” the man said.
“After she was dead: yes, we were a proud happy family,” Polat added.
“Where is your brother, now, Polat?”
“She is a singer, now.”
“She?” The man looked surprised.
“Well, after I found out his penis was much bigger than mine, I decided to eat all his food, so that mine would beat his…”
“Gluttony.”
“What?”
“Never mind. Then?”
“It did not help. So, I just cut it off when he was asleep. Now, she is a great arabesque singer. She is very, very rich, but she does not lend me even a penny. If I was her, rich and powerful, I would sleep with anyone I like, and bathe in milk, and sniff lots and lots of cocaine mixed with opium so that I can enjoy any other time I am not with a lady. I just want to kill that lucky son of a whore.”
“God, Polat! Envy, greed, sloth and wrath...”
“Who the hell are you, mumbling these stupid things?”
“I had hoped you would have guessed my name, but anyways, it is Azrail.”
“Then, hello, I am Britney Spears. By the way, isn’t she hot, just like a horse?”
“Pleased to meet you, Polat. Let me please introduce myself. I am the angel of death. I am a man of wealth and…”
“Yeah, yeah mate… Azrail. Azrail? The angel of death!” Polat looked at his pale face for a moment. “You got me for a second, you know?” Polat joked around laughing. Azrail was not smiling. “You are an actor, right?” Polat asked.
“We are all actors, playing the roles assigned us by Allah,” answered Azrail. Polat looked at him once more, but continued to drive his cab as usual.
After a few minutes of silence, “Stop in front of the man in black on the sideway,” instructed Azrail.
“Is it your friend?”
“No.”
“I cannot take another passenger when you are in the cab,” said Polat, but then stopped the car in front of the man in black who opened the front door and sat next to Polat. Polat scolded the new passenger: “Don’t you see I have a passenger back there?”
The passenger turned his head to the back seat searching for someone, seeing none, he replied: “Which man?”
Now, Polat was not smiling any more. He shouted “This man in white. Don’t you see him? We were chatting for half an hour.”
“Nope,” the man said.
“He cannot see me, Polat. I came for you. The time is up. The bells are tolling for you,” Azrail interrupted.
Polat was hearing the bells and some people shouting “woo woo, who whoo.” For the bargain of his life, Polat said: “No, no, no. Please do not take me. I love this game. Take Ismail in the taxi station. He is the oldest.”
“No, it is not his time, yet.”
“Then, take Recep. He is the meanest man around. He takes the passengers through the longest routes for more money.”
“No, Recep will continue his frauds for much longer. Your time is up.”
The passenger next to Polat, hesitantly, asked him: “Mate, who are you talking to? Can you please take me to Bebek.”
Polat went mad and started beating the passenger, shouting “Shut up for a second! My bloody life is at stake.” Then, he turned back to Azrail: “Take this bastard instead. Take this basterd.”

Azrail replied, “No, this bastard is too young; he has many years to live. Now, stop the car and get out. Do your last prayers and lick the ground for forty times, so that God may forgive some of your sins.” Polat desperately went out and started to lick the ground. Then, he heard his cab’s engine sound. When, he got up to see what was going on, his car was gone.

That was my game. Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. So if you meet me, have some courtesy; have some sympathy, and some taste; use all your well-learned politesse, or I’ll lay your soul to waste. I tell you one time; you are to blame. Now, tell me, what’s my name? Woo, woo.

(Part 2)

THE AFTERMATH

Notes from the Azrail

You know the story. Admit it please; it was a perfect crime, wasn’t it? After this incident, I have been fortunate enough to have many admirers. They all ask, “Oh, Azrail, how do you do it?” Well, if you follow my four easy steps, you can do it, too. First, sell your soul to the demon for inspiration. You should be a faithful apprentice to gain experience. Do as he says.
As a second step, observe well and plan ahead. I was watching Polat for more than two weeks: the places he goes, the types of people he talks to, his friends, lovers if any – in our case: none –, his beliefs and superstitions. Luckily, well thanks to my master Satan, Polat was a man of superstitions as he was brought up in a religious school with a lot of heretic Muslim beliefs. In addition, he was really afraid of dying. Now, you probably have this question: “Why did not I use a gun if he was so afraid of dying?” Well, first, my work would not be as much fun as this one. Then, how would I look at the mirror every day if I was no different from any other thieves? There is also another reason that when we do not have a gun, and, as in our situation, the car owner leaves us the car with its official documents in it, we have the legal right to take it. As you can all understand, I am a well-read man with style. I know the rules of the game I am playing. As I was doing my homework – well, I call planning of the crime homework; you are probably smart enough to get it – I had to find some motives which would make the situation as mysterious as possible. The mix of the azan and the church bell was a first motive. Of course, rainy sunset and dark weather was a must. For the sake of my next jobs requiring stealth, I cannot tell how I got in the cab without being seen by the taxi driver. Then, there are some other things such as being serious; giving vague answers and mumbling some religious or philosophical words he cannot understand: the concept of seven deadly sins was perfect for that.
Well, I do not regard myself as a professional, yet; as it was the first job I have ever pulled. However, you should have already understood the fact that there is a new promising player on the field with his ideas of masterpieces in crime history. As the third step, stay calm and stick to the plan as much as possible. As you can notice, I successfully played my role as the angel of death who talks as little as possible by also throwing confusing ideas to the victim. As another important fact, I did not let adrenaline pump my blood so that my cheeks would be red, which would spoil my game. But, also beforehand I did a little make up to make my face pale. It was actually a hard thing not to sweat and spoil my makeup. The problem of being a con man is to deal with unpredictable people. That was why research was so important, but even with all the information you get, the victim is still a human being who would do anything anytime. My master taught me all the tricks to make that human motive an advantage for me. That’s how I was triumphant making him believe that I was Azrail. After he noticed me in the back of the car, I just talked him into our conversation to the point that I revealed my name just as we were passing by my associate, so that we may pick him on the sidewalk. As he got out of the car, I just got to the wheel and took it away.
The fourth step: think intelligently; feel good; smell good; kiss good; act good; dress in tuxedos; have fun; drink good wine; make love; be an expert; wander around in groups of eleven, twelve or thirteen; watch Oprah; make fun of the rookie in your group in every movie; say vague farewells to your associates; knock over three casinos at a night; steal the money and the girl from the guy who stole your wife; try the thing that has never been tried; basically be Danny Ocean.
Do you ever wonder who was my associate in front of the car? I am hearing you saying “The bastard?” Yes, that bastard was my master: Satan. Another step: You should always play in the same team with the professionals.

(Part 3)

Police Radio, 10 pm., Istanbul

Here is how it has happened: Azrail gets in the car. After the taxi driver, Polat, notices him, Azrail orders the taxi driver to go straight ahead. They have a conversation about life, love and death. Then, Azrail says that he is the angel of death. Taxi driver is hesitant to believe him. After they take another passenger waiting on the sidewalk, the new passenger says he cannot see the man on the back seat. Azrail orders Polat to get out of the car for his last prayer. As Polat gets out of the car, the thieves steal the car. Thus, this is an incident of a car theft. Both passengers are thieves who are partners. Polat is a normal taxi driver. We found no alcohol in his breath.

September 14, 2009

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Arabesque

Overture – The Last Day at Vassar
Acem Kızı – Kurtlar Vadisi Soundtrack

Şener woke up to the sound of a horn that he had set his computer to play the night before. He got up. He said “Bismillahirrahmanirrahim” while first putting his right foot on his slipper on the floor, then the left one: always the right one first for luck. As he opened his room’s shades and windows to see the Quad, the room was illuminated with bright sunlight and Şener could hear the birds accompanying the song playing on his computer. His room was full of small pictures, all cut from touristic magazines, all showing different parts of Turkey. That wall was a beauty for him and a conversation topic for his friends. Each time his friends were in the room to join his weekly wine gatherings, they would try to select the places they wanted to visit in Turkey in the future. They were never going to go there though. In contrast to what his friends were saying, the Turkish touristic agency was not paying Şener for this.

After he brushed his teeth and washed his face in the same washbasin as he did yesterday or the day before yesterday – no, he was not that superstitious; that basin was the only one working properly on the whole floor – he went back to his room to close the shades so he could dress up. After he laid his new black pants and shirt on his bed, he first got his socks on his feet, and then dressed up slowly. Now, he could open the shades again. This process usually took thirty-five minutes if he was not hung over, which might have delayed his day for five more minutes – he drank a lot of Ouzo last night. While doing all this, Şener was also listening to very different kinds of music and trying to sing every one of them with special care. When he was done, he locked his door, checked it three times by turning the doorknob and left for his classes.

The first thing he did after coming to his room from the last class was to turn on his computer and listen to more music. He was going to be a great singer.

Entr’acte
You Can’t Always Get Want You Want – The Rolling Stones

Being a musician was tough. Especially being a singer, a male singer, was harder than anything. According to what Şener was telling his friends, if he were a girl, he would sleep with all the producers, so that they would agree to make an album for him. However, no matter how attractive he was, and considering he was a normal human being – not Brad Pitt – Şener could not succeed in the professional Turkish music arena, yet. He had applied to Vassar College four years ago and was accepted with financial aid. At Vassar, he decided to study music all the way, so that he could improve his technique. Vassar was not his priority school; Şener wanted to go to Berkeley, but was deferred. It was not the first or second time Şener failed that big. There was this one girl, the ONE, whom he always wanted to marry, but it was an epic failure. He was in love with this girl for four years, but knowing the fact that he did not talk to her even once was proof that he was a man with ideals and imagination. He would turn out to be a great novelist, but he was still pursuing his dream: to be the next Tarkan in Turkish pop.

Take My Breath Away – Berlin

Pop music was not his priority though; Şener loved every kind of good music with all his heart. He could appreciate good work of art, but the problem was to use his voice to perform it. That’s why he decided to take some private music lessons. After waiting for a couple of months, another student decided to help him on the way. Her name was Adriana. She was from Spain. Oh, God, what a beauty! In heart, but also in physical terms. What a beauty: dark long hair, dark eyes reflecting everything… what a beauty. Şener met her on the phone. Adriana called him to address the advert he put up on the school magazine for music lessons. They agreed to meet in a café across College Avenue to discuss the price.

Şener was already sitting in front of the window. He was there fifteen minutes early as usual. He was not expecting Adriana for another half hour, so he was drinking his red wine casually, but elegantly. When Şener saw Adriana on the door, he first looked at her face, half covered with shiny dark hair. He, then checked out her back, as she was walking into the café. We cannot really know what he was thinking at that time, since I do not have any records of him mentioning that specific scene to me, but as Adriana told me later on – probably coming back to ask if his name was Şener or not – Şener was lost in thought. Please, do not judge him as a pervert by this male instinct. Looking at a beauty is considered a good deed in many other cultures, too. Şener was probably thinking to propose to her when he was still checking out her back.

“Excuse me, is your name Sener by any chance?”
Şener was confused by the question because of the reasons you can already imagine, but he replied, “Yes, I am Şener; Şener Can. You are Adriana?”
“Shenesh? Oh, I am sorry, I thought it was Sener?”
“No, you are right, it is Şener.”
“Sheneth?”
“No, Şe-ner.”
“Oh, it is like Shen-Air.”
“Yes! I am sorry, please sit down,” Şener was a man of manners.

By the end of the dinner, Şener was in love with Adriana. Thus, he agreed to anything she said, including a high price for the private lessons. Later on, he was going to show this event as a reason for his theory that prostitutes come cheaper than a normal girlfriend in the long run. Adriana also had this quirky feeling in her stomach at the end of the dinner, probably because she also liked Şener; not because of the food as some witty readers might like to think. However, she decided not to show her sincere feelings to Şener. She was going to realize that this decision was probably the worst decision ever in human history, including Hitler’s massacres, according to Adriana.

New One – Rodrigo y Gabriela

Because Adriana was successful at hiding her emotions and Şener was kind enough not to trouble his tutor by expressing his true love, they had to go on both pretending to be friends for three years. Even though Şener was crazy about just hugging Adriana for even once to show his affection during some cute scenes, he did not do anything but smile radiantly in order not to make Adriana uncomfortable – once, he had to hide his shameful erection by thinking about his grandfather’s funeral when his arm accidentally touched Adriana’s breast while they were studying music. Even her presence was sometimes enough for him to be happy during an ordinary day. Just seeing her once and talking to her – that was the big difference from his high school love – was enough to keep him going one more day not to consider suicide in the mornings. For, Adriana: even though Şener was not really successful in singing, she was kind enough not to mention it, alas that Şener would be sad, or even worse, he might drop the lessons. Adriana was not concerned about money as some readers might think. She was also in love with Şener. If Şener was not a Turkish man, she would even buy all his breakfast, lunch and dinner, but he would not let her in any case.

Entre Dos Aguas – Paco de Lucia

They were trying anything to progress: both in music and love. Adriana wanted Şener to have a part in an acapella group, so he tried. He could not get into any. Şener wanted to form his own band, so that he could be a famous singer. Let me be careful here. Now, being famous was not his goal. He wanted to be this big rock star, so that Adriana would like him more. Şener was now only thinking on music to reach happiness through Adriana. Some readers might think “was happiness or Adriana Şener’s aim?” I do not think they were two different things; neither Şener, nor Adriana thought so.

With close friends, Şener formed a band. He was the lead singer. Damien, his French friend, was the supporting voice etc. Another character worth mentioning in the story, Sam, Şener’s friend, wanted to be their producer. In order to tell the story from an objective point of view, I need to tell you the fact that Sam was always supporting Şener’s love for Adriana and music. Even though he sincerely tried really hard to bring Şener and Adriana together, it did not work. Şener appreciated it. Şener was not even cross with Sam when he suggested Damien to be the lead singer of the group after they had tried all the music genres starting with rock, then jazz, blues, reggae, country, gypsy, rap, pop, even Turkish pop. At least with Damien, they could perform some of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles songs properly. Şener looked like he did not mind, but he did. In sheer misery, he had to leave the band he brought together with a lot of hope.

The Conversation

One of Şener’s Turkish friends, Caner Malkaralı, wrote this screenplay about what happened at Vassar the day before Şener left. I really liked the way it shows Şener’s relationship with his close friends, so I am just copying a part of Caner’s beautiful work here:

INT. OUTSIDE RETREAT – NIGHT, TWO MONTHS AGO

A typical Friday night at Vassar College, around 1am. BLANK SCREEN. We can only HEAR a pencil writing on a piece of paper. There is also the indistinguishable bassy music from the Mug. Writing sound ceases. Rustling sound. We hear something is put on the table. We hear Zippo lighter’s lid opens.

The lighter’s flame APPEARS after the BLANK SCREEN as ŞENER lights his cigarette. ŞENER is a Turkish senior student. ELİF TÜRKÜSÜ starts playing through his iPhone on the table. Now, ŞENER and the place can be seen. It is not well lit. ŞENER is sitting at one of the wooden tables outside the Retreat. The table is empty except his iPhone, Zippo lighter, Black Djarum cigarette pack and a piece of paper. ŞENER continues to sketch the music notes on a SHEET as he murmurs.

As ŞENER smokes his cigarette and works on the SHEET, ADRIANA comes and sits opposite him. ŞENER gets UP. He takes his jacket off and puts it on ADRIANA’s shoulders. ADRIANA tries to look at the SHEET without touching it from her side. ŞENER takes the paper, FOLDs and puts it in his pocket as he sits back to his seat. All these actions are done in a casual way.

                     ADRIANA
          I couldn’t stand it down there.

                     ŞENER
          Wet and sweaty.

                     ADRIANA
          Gross. I think, I don’t like the Mug.

                     ŞENER
          Why do you insist on going there every weekend then?

                     ADRIANA
          I don’t know why.

                     ŞENER
          I know why.

                     ADRIANA
          Why?

                     ŞENER
          To hook up with an American who is willing to grind with you. Right?

                     ADRIANA
          Oh, come on.

                     ŞENER
          Right. Right?

                     ADRIANA
          I… Fuck you!

                     ŞENER
          It’d be a pleasure.

ADRIANA takes out a cigarette from the pack on the table. ŞENER lights her cigarette. As ADRIANA puffs on her cigarette (pretends to smoke, but she does not inhale), her eyes are lost on the horizon – she thinks. ŞENER whispers hastily to himself.

                     ŞENER
          Never gonna get it.

                     ADRIANA
          What did you say?

                     ŞENER
          Nothing.
              
                     ADRIANA
          What?

                     ŞENER
          You know what.
         
                     ADRIANA
          What?

                     ŞENER
          I can’t believe you told me that.

                     ADRIANA
          Told you what?

ŞENER uses a high-pitched voice and moves his eyebrows.

                     ŞENER
          “I used to think Americans see Latina girls as hot before coming here from Spain, but then here I learned that it is just a myth.” (NORMAL VOICE) And I asked you “Why?” You told me (HIGH-PITCHED) “Nobody is grinding with me.”

A long silence. They smoke their cigarettes.

                     ADRIANA
          You know what?

                     ŞENER
          What?

                     ADRIANA
          Just because you don’t do such stuff back in Turkiye does not mean that we are all sluts.

                     ŞENER
          It depends.

As they smoke their cigarettes, they look away, thinking... We can see SAM coming from the distance. His arm is cast in plaster. He shouts from the distance. ŞENER puts his iPhone away. The music is gone.

                     SAM
          Merhaba! Hola!
                    
                     ADRIANA
          How are you doing with your broken hand, SAM?

                     SAM
          Learning new techniques to undo a bra single-handed.

SAM winks at them. ADRIANA’s cellphone rings (HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN – BEATLES). She does not pick up. It RINGs.

                     SAM
          Did I tell you the story about this nerdy girl with a broken arm in my high school?

                     ADRIANA
          No, I would love to hear it.

                     ŞENER
          That’s gonna be the seventh time.

                     SAM
          Well, you know about these sex education classes in high schools, right? They tell you some crazy stuff about your body hair and penis…

ADRIANA’s phone rings again. She does not pick up. As SAM was going to continue his STORY, he sees DAMIEN coming to the table from the Retreat.

                     SAM
          Bonjour, DAMIEN!

DAMIEN responds with a kind hand gesture. He approaches ADRIANA and KISSes her hand.

                     DAMIEN
          Bonjour.

ADRIANA has a distinctive Spanish French accent.

                     ADRIANA
          Merci baeucoup.

                     ŞENER
          She will never get it right.

SAM is louder than ŞENER.

                     SAM
          Wow guys. This is such an international group. As I’ve said “group”, guys, we gotta have an orgy, a big massive orgy in Jeremy’s room. Perfect place for it: incense and other crazy Middle-Eastern motifs.

                     ŞENER
          He will never let us.

                     SAM
          Why?

                     ŞENER
          He is worried about his carpets.

                     SAM
          The ones on the walls, or on the floor?

Everyone except DAMIEN laughs.

                     ADRIANA
          Why are you so down, DAMIEN?

                     DAMIEN
          I had a fight with my girlfriend.

                     SAM
          Yeah, yeah. Had a virtual fight with your virtual girlfriend on Skype. “Oh no, my love, I am lagging!”

                     ŞENER
          Tell us again DAMIEN, when was the last time you saw her?

                     SAM
          In flesh and blood, we mean; not pixilated.

                     ADRIANA
          Guys, why are you so cruel?

                     DAMIEN
          Two years.

SAM and ŞENER playfully hum LOVE STORY THEME SONG. MENAKA, a dark haired, small-sized Indian girl joins the table.

                     ADRIANA
          What’s up, MENAKA?

                     MENAKA
          Not much. I am a little bit depressed.

                     ŞENER
          Why?

                     MENAKA
          I can’t tell you guys. Do I look drunk?

SAM pushes MENAKA around.
         
                     SAM
          A little bit. Come on, why are you depressed?

                     ŞENER
          I am unhappy, too. DAMIEN, are you happy? You are not happy, right? You are not happy.

                     SAM
          Then high-five!

                     MENAKA
          Why are you not happy, ŞENER?

                     ŞENER
          Well, I can’t tell you why.

                     MENAKA
          Oh, I think I know why.

                     ŞENER
          Oh yeah. Then, high-five, MENAKA!

                     SAM
          Come on ŞENER. Everybody knows about it except…

SAM pauses and looks at ADRIANA.

                     ŞENER
          Okay, okay. That’s enough.

The others make “disappointed – uh ooh” sounds.

                     ŞENER
          What do you guys think of yourselves: pretending to be so cool… MURAT PROFITT or something?

                     ADRIANA
          What is it? Why are YOU unhappy ŞENER?

ŞENER looks at ADRIANA’s eyes for a moment.

                     ŞENER
          Nothing.

              
Arabesque
Requiem, Lacrimosa – Mozart

A few months later, Şener realized Damien and Adriana had been sleeping together for a quite long time. He was a little bit suspicious about constantly seeing them together after he left the band. However, he did not want to think that Damien, perfectly knowing his close friend Şener’s love for Adriana, would do such a thing.
There was only one solution. Actually, Şener thought for a long time to see if there was a second one, but no: only one solution. It was going to be this perfect murder. It happened. Şener’s plan was as beautifully created as Adriana. In the morning, Damien was found dead near the waterfall stream on the Sunset Lake. His penis was in his mouth. The message was given. Nobody knew who did it, except the ones who were supposed to know it. However, Şener was not happy; Adriana was crying. He confessed the crime.

Silence

He was only allowed to have his cigarettes and Zippo lighter. Şener stepped into his dark cell uneasily. After the jailer sealed the door behind him, Şener was left in complete darkness. He led himself to a corner with his lighter. He kneeled down to have his back leaning against the wall. He lighted a black cigarette. He was flicking his lighter’s heavy head to have a rhythmical sound. With the echoing sound in the empty cell, he started to sing beautifully:
“Oy gardiyan, gardiyan,                       Oh, jailer, jailer,
Tabancamı ver bana.                           Give me my pistol back.
Bir hainin uğruna,                                Because of a treacherous,
Ceza verdiler bana.                             They are punishing me.

Maphushane çeşmesi,                         The fountain of the jailhouse,
Yandan akıyor, yandan.                       Is flowing through.
Maphusluk bir şey değil,                      It is not about being imprisoned,
Yanıklık var bir yandan.                       My heart is aching.

Duvarı deleyim mi,                              Should I make a hole in the wall,
Yanına geleyim mi?                              Should I come near you?
Aç kapıyı gardiyan,                              Open the door, jailer,
Üç altın vereyim mi?”                           Should I give you three golden coins?

Oy Gardiyan – Oktay Kaynarca

MURAT PROFITT

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Love Story

I am depressed.
I was in love.
It was the happiest moment of my life, but I was not aware of it.

I actually shouldn’t have done this – I mean writing all this stuff down. It is miserable. If people read these pages, they will pity me. They don’t know it is noble to suffer for the sake of love. I know what they will think: they are going to say I am just a fool. I hate these infantile ordinary people. For them, life is a picnic. Their laughter makes me sick. They should be no more than a bug to me, but I overestimate them. I am afraid of their comments. I check my back every single minute to see if there is someone behind me reading what I am writing. I think I should put on my big hat, and cover my face in the darkness while I am writing all this. I don’t want to get interrupted. I don’t want to be recognized, either. I do not need to talk to them. Actually, it is very hard for me to keep up a conversation for more than five minutes. Then, I start to suffer: an urgency to leave the place overcomes me, even though I seem to be having fun. I always leave someone or a social place after five minutes. I also think I am irritating someone by keeping them away from what they are doing or merely boring them after five minutes. I am an uncomfortable person.

Just because I am procrastinating to express my feelings about my love, certainly does not mean that I do not want to talk about it. I am a pleasure delayer. It is a great joy for me to talk about my Golden Melodies – that’s what I call her. I intentionally fell in love with her. I wanted to experience a passionate love so that I could write about it with sincere feelings in my next novel. However, I lost myself in her so much that as I tried to get her out of my mind – believe me, every single day I was trying to forget her – those green eyes were pulling me back. I wasn’t strong enough to fight her. Every night, when all my friends were asleep, I was awake, thinking about her. In the mornings, I didn’t want to wake up; the real world was so harsh.

My happiest moment: Facing Bosphorus, we were lying down on Plateau, watching lights reflecting from the other side of Istanbul dancing on dark, enchanting water; my head upon her lap, gazing at the stars, we were drinking black tea; and these other little things I remember: sunflower seeds in my left hand and in her right hand. Our other hands were embracing each other as if they were going to stay together till the end of the world. How pretty she danced in the silence of the night: only her footsteps, melodies from my saxophone and accompanying whistles of the ships passing by… I was having sweet dreams about us. Waking up was devastating for me: not to be able to touch her again. I was never going to be happy again. Maybe that’s why I feel suicidal in the mornings. Although I sometimes deceive myself to think that I forgot about her – I didn’t see her for three or four months: since 7:32 pm, Sunday - I am still unhappy. I think I am going to vomit now - I always have that funny feeling. But I have never vomited, yet. It’s just a strong, funny feeling, and I don’t like it.

It was four years ago: the first time I saw her; I knew that she was the ONE. She turned into a beautiful and intelligent young woman in four years, and I knew it. If our relationship had continued… Well, it turned out to be the other way, and I found consolation in the literary, creating my own artificial dream world one by one with my words in my books. That’s why I am writing now, to create a better world than the real one, which only makes me suffer. I think I will throw up…

She was waiting at a bus stop with me. She was wearing a black leather jacket. I was surprised that I had not seen her before. From the way she looked at me – or if she looked at all – she must have understood that I was one of the other dull boys she saw along the school corridors. I was nothing to her, but she became my world at that moment. There is a slight difference now, after four years: she still means the world to me, but I think she is now sure that I am just a fool.

I was thinking of nothing else but her during the course of two weeks after I first saw her. My only wish was to see her come to the dance on that Thursday; and, yes, she did. I was wearing my best clothes. I put on my cologne. In misty lights, I approached my Golden Melodies for a dance with slow music. I was smiling radiantly. Maybe I shouldn’t have smiled at all, and played the cool one, but that’s not who I am. I wouldn’t want to deceive her. She was very cold towards me. I didn’t understand why. She didn’t even give me her hand in an appropriate way on the dance floor; her hand was a tight fist. It disappointed me, but I didn’t give up. With all my love and sincerity I looked into her bright eyes, but while she was looking at me she seemed bored and her eyes were dull. However, I asked her some questions: “How are you tonight?” She just answered “Fine.” I tried to carry on the conversation: “Do you like the ball?” “Yes.” And that awkward silence – it happens to me a lot, and I hate it. Suddenly she asked “What’s your name?” Oh, fool, why didn’t you introduce yourself first? Well, you can’t use your brain much when you are flying over the clouds in a vanilla sky – and I already knew her name. It was a poor performance. It was the first time I fell in love with a girl, and was planning to ask her out. It didn’t work out the way I expected.

Months passed. Almost every time I saw her, I was looking directly at her eyes. Although most of the time she was aware of my gaze, she was intentionally looking away or changing her direction. I tried to bury my love in my heart after two years, but it was getting harder as she came across me more frequently every day. Maybe that was because I got hold of her daily routine even more than she did. I was falling in love with her every time I saw her: her dress, her brown hair, the way she ate, and the way she talked - I hardly heard her voice though, we did not have any conversation. I would give a world away just to sit with her somewhere for an hour. To get her attention, I was playing my saxophone in Plateau. Everybody came to listen to it one day or another. I was feeling like a fictional character who threw huge parties to find his love. Daisy came, but never did my Golden Melodies. I was on my way to Plateau one day… I was really going to vomit then. She was sitting somewhere with another boy… That night, I played one of my best performances in sheer misery. Later, I cried on my way back to my dorm after seeing that they were still sitting there, together. Maybe they enjoyed and gilded their romance with the melodies of my saxophone.

You wouldn’t do that if you were my Golden Melodies, would you? Maybe you are angry with her. You would like to learn her name at least. Well, a coincidence… her name means “melody” in Turkish. She doesn’t have golden hair, though. “Golden” comes from something else, but I won’t tell you anything about it. It is hard for me.

Did you wonder what my name is? You won’t probably even remember my face; it won’t make any difference. But, if I had told you all this before, Ezgi,
would you marry me?

 

LOVE STORY: Notes from the Writer

Although, people believe that a writer cannot sincerely write about a feeling without experiencing it, it does not necessarily mean that I am the narrator in this piece. Our narrator - we can call him Mustafa - is a young novelist, who experienced an unrequited love four years ago, and finally came to realize that he was living his love in the artificial world he created in his dreams. Although Ezgi’s love meant more than anything to him, he couldn’t realize that he was in love with the idea of love itself. While writing this letter to Ezgi, Mustafa is partly aware of the fact that he did not have any interaction with her other than a dance at a high school ball. We are not even sure whether that scene was a fantasy or not. Even if it was real, the readers are not in a position to judge his performance other than relying upon the narrator’s words since he didn’t cite rest of the conversation, but only commented: “It was a poor performance… It didn’t work the way I expected.” We can see from most of his statements that he underestimates himself in many circumstances, so we cannot really be sure whether it was a poor performance or not, because almost everything about Mustafa seems “poor” to himself. Due to his lack of self-confidence, he is afraid of other people’s comments and becomes “uncomfortable” connecting with people for a long time.

Since he can’t approach his love in the real world, he fantasizes about the small pleasurable moments he wants to spend with Ezgi, now just a body symbolizing the love of his dreams. That is one of the reasons why he does not give her his name even after he proposes to Ezgi, because he was not in Ezgi’s life; he was just watching her from a certain distance. He somehow senses that she is not aware of his love, maybe not even his existence. However, he clearly says that “she meant the world to him” in a literarily romantic tone in which he assimilates himself with a fictional character, the Great Gatsby, and expects the strategy that worked for Gatsby, to also work for him. He sometimes forgets the fact that he is living in the real world. That’s why there are many gaps in his sentences and flow of thought. Although he mentions that people were coming to listen to his saxophone performance in Plateau*, we do not see any scene where he interacts with other people other than Ezgi. He is certainly not an action man - always thinking, dreaming and fantasizing in a very sincere way: “I wouldn’t want to deceive her.”

*Plateau is a sport field of one of Turkey’s renowned high schools – Robert College – where Mustafa spent his five years as a boarder student, just as Ezgi did. Inhabitants of the school also usually go to Plateau for watching its beautiful scene where Bosphorus – Istanbul Strait – can be totally seen through this green field full of trees.

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A Writer's Dilemma

What’s up?

For a month, I am trying to write a script. Actually, the brainstorming period has been more than a year. I said a month, because I cannot think of anything else, but that script for a whole month.

For the theater?

No, it is not a theater script. I don’t like plays. You do not have the power to control the moment like you can with a movie camera. You cannot edit a play, either. My script is for a movie, or a TV or web series.

About what?

Well, that’s a tricky question. I would love to say that it is about a normal college life: blood, sex and violence. I got you for a second, didn’t I? But, only for a second. Here is the greatest problem: there has never been a serious crime in our college, other than that shotgun robbery last year. Currently, there is also a butt-toucher problem, but it is just absurd. Thus, I cannot create a student mafia out of nowhere at Vassar. It is just not plausible. It is not reasonable. OK, it is stupid.

What else?

Let’s assume that I came up with a perfect story, which makes the presence of a Mafia at Vassar feasible. Let’s assume people believed it. The other problem is to come up with real living characters. First, I need a perfect Mafioso leader. His name is Profitt: Murat Profitt. You might remember Mr. Profitt from his Manifesto about the Committee. I think he should not have used a ghostwriter for his manifesto.

Something else concerning me?

Yes, there should be a grand plot. I should be able to foreshadow the fiftieth episode from the first couple of shows. In order to make myself clear, let me share my favorite TV-show’s plot with you. An undercover government agent, Polat, changes his face in order to get into the Mafia from the very bottom. At the end of his journey, he climbs to the top to be the leader. Then he dissembles the whole underground organization. On his journey, he has to sacrifice his former life: his parents, his friends and his love. Besides, Polat is not just a normal agent. He is the son of the Mafia leader he tries to put into jail. However, he was abducted as a baby. Nobody knows this fact till the end. Polat’s chief stole and used him against Polat’s own father. In the series of ninety-seven episodes, almost everything was foreshadowed so professionally beginning from the first episodes that it all made sense at the end. So, what should be my plot? Can I just create a bunch of characters and let them act wild at a college campus? Will they be able to convey their own plot?

How about the characters?

You are right, there is only Mr. Profitt, about whom I don’t have much idea. I only know that he should be a charismatic, but also a mad leader. Probably, I will act him. Mr. Profitt should not be the main character though. The main character of the story should be a new member of the Committee.

What is the Committee?

The Committee is the underground organization Mr. Profitt and his dear friends founded a few years ago. Starting with cigarette and alcohol bootlegging, the organization gained excess revenue. As its members got more popular and had political advantage over the individuals on the campus, they took over the control of the whole college.

How about…?

Yes, I think you are right. The crime rate is low on campus probably because the Committee is protecting it. In addition, normal people basically do not have any idea what is going on after 3 in the morning on campus: the night is just starting for Mr. Profitt and his friends.

Setting…

The setting and mise-en-scene is one of the most important elements. Most of the scenes should be shot during the night. Besides, most of the events take place at the night according to the script; the other advantage is to be able to control the light. However, it will also be a disadvantage for us since we need more effort to make our artificial light look like real. The main character’s life – especially in the beginning of the series – should be shot in the sunlight with warm colors. As he gets deeper into the Committee, the lights will be colder.

Am I sure about the main character?

Not really, because it might be better to see Mr. Profitt building his own empire from the start. However, I am not sure Mr. Profitt should be the main character or not. I also would like to introduce him as a powerful character at the beginning from the perspective of a new member at the bottom. Thus, the spectators will be able to sympathize with the rookie character and climb to the top with him. However, the same process is also possible with Mr. Profitt. He starts off as a normal student. Then, one day, with his friends, he starts to bootleg cigarettes and alcohol. After a point, they also have to control drugs in order to maintain their monopoly and eventually eliminate other dealers etc.

Maybe…

I also think that way. Maybe I can start with the main character as a rookie, but also flash back to Mr. Profitt’s Committee from the stories and rumors people tell each other about this mysteriously omnipotent group.

McDonalds gibisi yok…

If we go back to the characters, each and every character will be a real living individual with a different personality. They should have different objects they cling to – such as Zippo lighter, a half dollar coin, Swiss knife, iPhone etc. They should think differently, act differently... They should be very talented at their professions.

How about conversations?

As a result of this diversity, the characters’ conversations should be a delight to listen to. They should always talk about casual daily topics, just like in a Tarantino movie, or Ocean’s Eleven. However, with their attitudes and knowledge, they should reflect very different aspects to each conversation so that the spectators should also look forward to new points of view from each character. Aphorisms and stories are also very important. The fans of the series should recite different kinds of lines or stories funny or serious, on specific occasions from these characters. Proverbs and storytelling especially play a crucial role in Turkish culture. I think, here, too, people will love the concept of aphorisms and stories I was talking about.

Also jokes…

I would hate to come up with a series that lacks jokes. I might need extra help from a couple of my high school friends on this issue, but I think jokes will be fine if I solve my other problems.

I am not sure if I need a grand plot or not. I wonder what happens if I just let my characters be. Maybe, a series about a college life without conspiracies (I think it is very important), violence, gangs and other thrilling stuff will be better received by everyone in college. My only concern is that I will be bored writing down stuff without action.

Music is vital, isn’t it?

Of course. I usually write my stories while I listen to some songs, which augment the mood, so that I can feel the whole world I am about as if I am in it with my characters. Therefore, I personally will choose the songs for each scene.

What can you do to help me?

I need a grand plot and living characters.

I am really confused. Please, help me, please.

October 5, 2009

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Shotgun

Remember the shotgun story of 2009; armed robbery on four students?

To find out how it has really happened, you got to search within yourself. – The Sufi

Tom, Art History Major – First student
It was a bright sunny day. Well, the event actually had happened around midnight, but the day was sunny. That’s a fact. We were coming from the TH’s. I thought it was going to rain that night though. The sky was funny looking. We were in front of Chicago Hall. I was a little bit tipsy. Then, I remember, there was this weirdo coming towards us. A typical hoody Hispanic out of Poughkeepsie. There are actually a few students like that at Vassar. I don’t really know how they survive. They should just die or something. Anyway, that guy approached Candy. What a girl. She was totally wasted. She did not even care about the dude until the guy pushed her aside. There was this alpha male friend in our group. He pushed the guy back. Another hoody guy came out of nowhere in the dark and knocked our friend out with a blow in the head. What a scene: Şener was lying on the ground. I thought I was in this Tarantino movie, with the blood and other stuff on the ground. It was beautiful and horrifying; the irony of my life. At the same time the first dude took out his gun. Annie just shouted out loud. I could not even open my mouth when I saw that sawed off shotgun. It was much bigger than anything I have seen before. He lined us on the windows of Chicago Hall. It was like this execution style. Then, the other guy touched me from behind. I thought he was molesting me, but he tried to get any valuables out of me. Maybe he was also enjoying it. I don’t really know. It was horrible; horrible. After me he went up to Annie. She was shaking like crazy. When the guy was on Candy, she tried to grind with him. What an hilarious girl. Then, the guy went down to Şener’s body on the ground. After they got all our stuff, the first dude gave Candy a goodbye kiss – I bet he was jealous from all the grinding stuff. They disappeared in the dark.

Candy, the Wasted girl… - Second student
I don’t remember anything.

Annie, the Chick-en – Third student
I don’t even want to think about that night again. I try to forget it every time I remember that. I went to my shrink right after that night, but even she was freaked out. She did not know what to tell me. When I called my mother while Tom was calling for the security, they hit the road at that moment, but it took three hours for them to arrive all the way from Boston. They could not calm me down right after the event occurred. They must have been all white in the face, too. I think they were more freaked out than me. I really cannot believe how Tom could have been stayed so calm when that creeper was touching all over him. And that Candy. Such a slut. I hope the guy did not get HIV after kissing her. I was counting on Şener until the last minute that he would wake up and beat these men, but, God, he was sleeping peacefully, as if I was the one who was always talking about protecting ladies and other chauvinistic stuff. I hate my life. I want to kill myself.

Şener, the macho male – Fourth student
Nothing happened.

There is nothing a security officer can do after an event occurs. Their job is to prevent the event before it happens. – Mr. Profitt

November 16, 2009

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Fragments

“How is your life at Vassar?”
Well, I will never able to come up with a nice answer to this question for four years. What can I say more than “Fine”? I cannot say “great” because I was not strutting around with supreme happiness every single day. I cannot say “boring” either, because there are a lot of moments I remember as great. What do they expect me to tell them? Should I explain each memory I remember as a collection of fragmented moments? It is hard, but I should probably let them walk into my moment library – just like the frames of a movie reel. I can talk about the time I walked to the Mall for four hours, or maybe the time my floor mates got so drunk that they were all lying on the floor that security did not know what to do, or maybe my friend’s imaginary pig roast. However, will they be able to experience the same feelings as I did?

The longer you look at one object, the more of a world you see in it. I am at the Sunset Lake. Last month, a friend of mine showed me the waterfall magic. The first time I tried it, I instantly fell in love with it. I was screaming at the wonderful image with laughter and joy. I was literally high without taking any drugs. Now, the situation is very different. I am all alone, still excited. I am enjoying the silence of the other world beyond the lake. I walk to the bridge and lay down on my back. I turn my head upside down to see the entire lake, and “Boom”! Vista… I am in the world of doubles – or a world of facts and doubts, which I cannot really distinguish from one another. The sound of the waterfall is my silence. As I keep lying there and looking at the beauty, I am being drawn more and more inside it. I fear that I might fall into the water and never come back, so I have to get up and light a cigarette facing only the real side of the world.

29 September 2009

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The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy (1931), directed by William Wellman and starring James Cagney as Tom Powers, is one of the early examples of the gangster/crime films. Since the movie was made during that genre’s emergence era, it can be regarded as a pioneer of the gangster genre. Considering that fact, various elements of The Public Enemy constitute this genre such as plot, complex characters, social effect, icons, stereotypes, innovations etc.

In general, the gangster/crime films portray the lives or violent actions of gangsters, a group of criminals and different kinds of underground characters dealing with illegitimate business. The plot is usually made upon their rise to the power in the organized crime and/or their fall caused either by their self-destructive motives or the power struggle with another party. Main characters are these power hungry lawbreakers who usually have a sense of morality that slightly differs from the public opinion because of the circumstances they were brought up in. Thus, those gangster movies can also be seen as the morality tales of the society.

Tom Powers is a two-bit, merciless, but also child-like button man for a crime organization. As many other gangster movies, The Public Enemy, is set in a large crowded city, Chicago, with its nightclubs, bars, dark streets, fast cars, apartments and hotels; poor and rich people living together; poor families’ children aspiring to acquire the luxury and respect they see the rich people own by their wealth.

The movie assumes that the habits from the childhood do not really change when people grow up. Even as small kids, they steal expensive watches from the stores, disturb people such as flipping over a gentleman’s hat, but they are also smart and fast on the street that they never get caught. When Wellman first introduces the adult Tom and Matt on the screen, the most obvious gesture Matt does it to wipe his nose on his arm in the same particular way he used to do when he was a kid. It clearly shows the movie’s argument that people’s habits and personalities do not really change. Tom’s child-like spoiled manners continues to exist as his mother still sees him as “just a baby” and his girlfriend, Gwen, orders him to sit down on the bed and caresses his head saying: “Oh, my bashful boy.” Thus, even the naivety does not seize to exist. Throughout the movie, that analogy will be kept true until the end when Tom promises to leave the business and be home with his family after he gets out of the hospital. However, he does not live for anyone to see the happy family “all together again” as Ma Powers puts.

While employing, thus inventing many common icons of the gangster/crime genre such as mafia jargon, guns, expensive suits, hats, piles of cash, fast cars, gang rivalries, unnatural death sequels, mistresses, bootlegging, etc., The Public Enemy is a pioneer of the genre that many other later films follow the similar plotline: the kid from the poor family gets into illegitimate organized crime business; as he rises in the organization and becomes richer, his life standards get higher as he buys his way into the society; then he experiences the inevitable fall of the violent mobster. The movie is also successful on creating many complex characters that are free of the typical gangster stereotypes of the era by also being able to address the social issues of the time.

September 23, 2010

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The Searchers

In John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), the conflict requires a physical struggle for its control that are resolved either by individual males [Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter)] or by a collective such as cavalry as in any typical Western.

Ford uses a linear Western table for the plot development. Establishment: Uncle Ethan comes back home from a long war. We meet with the family and join their warm table for dinner. Even from the first night when Ethan is sitting outside the house, it is obvious for the audience to understand that John Wayne is acting a lone traveler yet again. In the morning, we meet with rest of the people of the village when the raiders come to get Ethan’s brother to chase down Native Americans – the animation of the major conflict. The story gets more intense as Ethan discovers his family was massacred by the Comanche. With his step-cousin Martin, Ethan sets out to look for his abducted nieces. The story reaches a resolution with the death of whole Comanche tribe. Ethan brings his niece back; Martin marries the girl he likes. Ethan goes back to wilderness, “riding into the sunset.”

Setting-wise, the Westerns, including The Searchers, employ a massive American terrain on which a couple of ranches are located far away from each other, so that every American has his own space. However, the Native Americans have to fight in order to survive in their land that is threatened by the white folks – the conflict of the plotline. Basically, the setting provides an arena for conflicts that are yet to be determined by the decisions and actions of the participants. The nature of the conflict in other kind of genres is between the values and attitudes of the major characters that are located in “civilized” settings – indeterminate space. The conflicts are usually caused and resolved by the “doubled” hero, usually a romantic couple. In Ford’s The Searchers, one can also see this kind of a conflict between Martin Pawley and Laurie Jorgensen, which also shows the fact that different genres can use the properties of one another’s, especially if John Ford is the director.

Each genre film also has a specific cultural context and its social communities of interrelated character types. Both of these elements are given in The Searchers: the ex-Confederate soldiers and their families vs. a completely different society that are not even considered to be humans: the Comanches as the enemies. Even though the white community’s members have their own differences in attitudes, values, and actions that create conflicts within the society, they try becoming one of a kind in the face of an enemy threat. Within the communities, in these genres, the individuals’ functions are also determined by their positions with the society’s value structure. Therefore, the static generic characters’ personalities are determined by their status in the community: such an Indian or Cowboy, gangster or cop etc.

The Western hero, however, is dynamically in the middle of the conflict: Ethan is a free spirited individual who got stuck with the problems of his family and the society that he doesn’t feel to be a part of. He even becomes a threat to the society that he almost gets arrested, but then suddenly he is forced to become a ranger, an agent of the community – either as a soldier or as a ranger, he cannot fully get away. The individual hero takes a rigid attitude as he deals with his dynamic and contested world. After acting upon the conflict, the hero of the genres that have determinate, contested spaces finally leaves the place riding “into the sunset.”

December 5, 2010

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Tender Mercies

First Act

Opening Scene

Mac is fighting with his friend over a bottle of alcohol. Mac’s friend is really angry about his drinking problem. At the end, his friend pushes Mac on the ground; and Mac stays there. While the fight is happening, the motel owner Rosa Lee and his son Sonny is listening the fight from outside, wondering what to do.

This scene establishes Mac’s alcohol problem and Rosa Lee’s responsible and caring stand against all the things happening around her.

The First Morning

Mac gets up from the floor. He is still drunk. He opens the shades to see Rosa Lee is working. He appreciates her effort for her family. Meanwhile the audience understands that she is the business owner.

Mac gets out of his cabin to talk to Rosa Lee. She informs him that his friend left him and did not pay for the room. Mac tells her that he is broke, so he offers to work there. Rosa Lee’s only condition is that he should not drink while working. This offer and Rosa Lee’s agreement cues the beginning of a relationship and the start of a healing process for Mac both emotionally being with a family and physically working and not drinking.

Hard Work

Mac starts working. He picks up the trash, fixes the falling apart parts of motel etc. Meanwhile Rosa Lee, too, works really hard cleaning Mac’s motel room. Sonny plays around Mac while he fixes the door.

The audience is given the feeling that with the arrival of Mac, the perfect family model is now established: father, mother and son. Father and mother sharing the workload as in a typical western family, while the child plays around them and asks interesting questions.

Mac Stays

After he works enough to cover his room expenses, Mac asks Rosa Lee for permission to stay there and work more. Rosa Lee agrees. Now, even though it is not talked yet, it is underscored that both parties know that they are going to live together from now by covering what was lacking in their lives before.

Mac starts to deal with money as if he is the partner of the house. They eat at the same table together every night as if they are a family. Even though they don’t talk much and there is an awkward silence all the time, their body languages show that all characters are getting used to the new situation slowly. Sonny asks Mac’s name for the first time. He acknowledges that a stranger became a family member now. Later on, Mac and Sonny have a soothing and interesting conversation about sitting still and thinking about things.

Mac and His Guitar

This is the first scene we see Mac can sing and play guitar really well. Later on, we will learn that he was a famous folk singer. While Mac sings and plays in his cabin, Rosa Lee listens to him in her house. She seems worried about the presence of Mac in her life, probably mostly about their future.

Church

They drive to church as a family with their pickup car. Rosa Lee is driving the car, which might also symbolize her role in the family and whole relationship as being the sanest person to have control over things. Sonny is between Mac and his mother.

When they arrive to the church, the audience sees that Rosa Lee is in the choir singing religious songs. The important theme of religion is first introduced in this scene. We see that Mac knows the song by heart even though other people in the church are looking at the lyrics to sing along. Sonny appreciates that. Religion is important in all characters’ life, but Mac still lacks the perfect touch of God since he was not baptized before.

It is one of the important scenes that Rosa Lee totally acknowledges and embraces Mac’s presence that she introduces him in her social circle, actually the most important one in a western family’s life: the church. She introduces him to the priest as her employee.

TV Ritual

After church, Rosa Lee, Mac and Sonny come home and watch television together as if they are a real family now. Sonny wants to talk to his mother in private, but she refuses. After he goes to bed, for the first time, Mac and Rosa Lee have a real conversation about their lives. We learn a lot of important facts about both characters: Rosa Lee’s husband is killed; both of their parents are dead; Mac was married, got a divorce and has a daughter… Sonny abruptly interrupts the conversation. He shouts them to be silent so that he can sleep. We see that Sonny is not really used to the idea of accepting a stranger to their family, yet.

Let’s Get Married

One day, while Mac and Rosa Lee are working on the garden, Mac tells her that he did not drink in two months. We learn that the experience of being around Rosa Lee and Sonny really helps Mac and makes him a much better guy. Out of nowhere Mac asks her about marriage. Then he proposes her very casually as if he proposes the idea of going to town for a change: “I guess it’s no secret how I feel about you. A blind man could see that. Would you marry me?” Rosa Lee: “Yes, I will.”

Mac is actually totally right about it and when we think about their relationship, we can see that they already behave like a family since Mac asked Rosa Lee for permission to stay more and Rosa Lee agreed. So, it was just a matter of “let’s name this relationship.” And he did it. It was no surprise, but an expected event.

School & Father

Sonny is playing catch with his friends in the schoolyard. A few of his friends come around him and ask questions about his dad. This is an important scene in many aspects. First, from the way the kids talk, we can figure out what the whole town thinks about Rosa Lee family. People question the story of Sonny’s real father getting killed during the Vietnam War. The kid asks Sonny for his real father’s name. They also talk about Rosa Lee’s new husband, Mac, being a drunk. At that point, Sonny gets defensive and gets in a fight with the kid.

We can see that the townspeople do not really appreciate Rosa Lee’s marriage with Mac. But also, Sonny’s reaction shows that he got used to the idea of Mac being the new father of his family.

When Sonny gets home, he asks his mother about his father. It is clear that Rosa Lee did not really talk about his father with Sonny. So, as a whole family, they go to Sonny’s real father’s grave. Mac knows his place in the family, so he decides to stay in the car and let Sonny and Rosa Lee share a private moment with the dead. Sonny asks more questions to learn more about his father. But it feels like even Rosa Lee does not know much about him either.

Reporter

When the reporter comes to interview Mac, we learn for the first time that Mac was a legendary singer. He gives us lots of background about Mac and Mac’s ex-wife who was also a singer.

However, this scene plays a more important role as the last scene of the first act and reporter and his story as the inciting incident and point of no return. Firstly, the reporter informs Mac that his ex-wife, Dixie, is coming to Austin for a concert and he might have a chance to see his daughter that he did not see for a long time. That’s how Mac decides to see Dixie to find his daughter.

And the reporter’s story about Mac and his whereabouts triggers lots of events in Mac’s life. A group of striving musicians who admire Mac as a singer come to talk to him and they inspire him to go back to singing and writing songs. The reporter’s story also makes Mac’s daughter to track down his father and finally meet him again. Also, the whole town now knows that Mac was the legendary singer. They appreciate him much more.

I would like to conclude my analysis to mention the fact that I really liked the movie.

October 7, 2010

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Se7en

Se7en (1995) by David Fincher, as a mystery thriller, portrays the chaotic setting as if it is a strange fun-house. The city, being the theme park itself, is covered with confusing layers, such as its insecure people, vehicles, illegal activities, rain etc. In this atmosphere, homicide officers Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) are assigned to unravel the plans of “the Seven Deadly Sins” serial killer, John Doe (Kevin Spacey). This chaos reaches its climax by all means - setting and plot-wise - when the detectives get face to face with the murderer for the first time in front of the killer’s apartment.

“Chase” scene

After John’s first gunshot, the chase starts through the maze-like corridors, which are not very well illuminated. The only light coming out of the windows at the two far ends actually becomes quite disturbing for the eyes that got used to the darkness of the corridor as also in a metaphorical way that the characters suddenly face the truth – white light – of meeting each other without having their guards up. When Mills starts running, the cameraman also runs with him, which makes the camera really shaky in big fast motions. Thus, the camera becomes subjective to the chase as it moves behind the characters running hastily. The camera tries to focus on the murderer from various quick angles and levels (thereby increasing the feeling of subjective randomness), but because of the confusing outside effects – other people, lighting etc – it becomes not that easy to capture the glimpses of John in the rush of the scene. It adds up to the pace of the chase even though there are not really rapid cuts throughout the scene. Because of the fact that there is also the tension of getting shot any second anywhere, the characters sometimes pause behind a wall or window and the camera, too, gets stable as they move slowly and the cuts get longer.

The red doors scattered on the surrounding dark colored walls symbolizing John’s bloody murders also reminds us of the ordinary people living behind them. As a matter of fact, during the chase scene, a lot of people get out of these doors. They add up to the chaos and confusion of the detectives and the killer as they interact with them. The building consists of several stories, which resembles Dante’s Inferno in his Divine Comedy. The characters goes down from the sixth floor (envy is the sixth deadly sin, and John lives on that floor: he will later on reveal that his sin is in fact “envy”) to the hell, the ground level on the street, which is crammed with people and dominated by dark colors and heavy rain, which alludes to the trapped characters’ entanglement in the plot. The traffic gets jammed, and the characters find themselves in the middle of the city’s chaos in its dark, mean streets with garbage trucks (again a cleaning object, garbage truck, becomes a tool to hide the killer).

The last part of the chase scene has a great, beautiful shot. When John Doe puts the gun on Mills’ head, we see the gun on the left of the screen (one third of it), in focus – even the rain drops shine clearly on it – but the killer’s body and face are so out of focus that we only see a dark silhouette. They were probably using a long lens here.

October 14, 2010

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Scarlet Street

Scarlet Street by Fritz Lang (1945) is one of the best examples of films noir. One of the strict rules of the period (because of the Production Code) was to punish the immoral character, or a character that has committed a crime, at the end. In the movie, Chris Cross, after murdering Kitty and sending Johnny to the electric chair, cannot get away with those two deaths. Even though the law cannot punish him, Chris “is found guilty by the jury that is on his heart”, and he goes crazy. Kitty and Johnny cannot get away with the game they played on Chris either: they are both dead.

“Chris’ Suicide at the Hotel” scene

One of the most important elements of Film Noir is the lighting and its effect on the mise-en-scene as in shadows and tone of the movie. The scene starts with a dark hotel room. The only light is the big blinking hotel sign that turns on and off outside. The same effect was also used in Murder My Sweet (1944) in Marlowe’s office. As Chris comes in to the hotel room, he turns on the light, but still the room is dark and there are many shadows around. Also the blinking hotel sign is still effective.

Chris has a dark overcoat, which is widely used in films noir, and of course his gray hat. His shadow on the wall can clearly be seen. The shadows are one of the most important lighting and mise-en-scene elements that the viewers should examine carefully. His whistling is probably an allusion to Fritz Lang’s M (1931). The non-diegetic music in major tone is another thing to consider that makes the atmosphere gloomy. The off-screen voice of Kitty and Johnny, and Chris’ dialogue with those sounds in his head represents the psychological aspect of the film noir and its connection with the criminal mind.

After he starts to hear the sounds again, the pain on Chris’ face shows the psychological troubles he is facing. Thus, the film also comes up with those problems and questions of reasoning for murder (crime) and its punishment in its subject. Then, Chris looks at the ceiling to see a chandelier (but in the scene those lights are never used). The shot after he commits suicide and two guys break into his room is just another beautiful example of the genius use of shadows and light. The camera only shows the shadow of his legs hanging on the wall instead of the body itself. As a typical film noir element those shadows help many directors to portray many death/murder scenes off screen, but still give a sense of what’s happening through sound and shadows to get away with the Hollywood censors.

December 1, 2010

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Withnail and I

“If you can’t remember the 60’s, …don’t worry. Neither can they.”

No matter what other people said in the class, I think Withnail and I is a hilarious movie. Starting off with a cool jazz session by a saxophone player (who gets killed 30 minutes after this performance in real life), it doesn’t have the beginning of a typical comedy – in fact this is how the movie goes on: British dark humor style. The thematic movement revolves around two struggling young actors, Withnail and the protagonist (I), and their quest in entering the adult world starting with their decision to rehabilitate from their excessive use of alcohol and drugs.

The controlling idea of the movie is the rethinking of values of a dying culture in 1969 while entering the adult world that brings along a lot of responsibilities as the characters and their lifestyles run out of time. After I reads the newspaper at a café, he decides to change the way he is living and to go the countryside (False Solution) to leave behind everything: drugs, alcohol, money problems, quarrels etc (Inciting Incident). The second act starts as Withnail and I’s journey to countryside begins. The second act climax is right after the scene when Uncle Monty tries to make love to “I”, and I confronts Withnail. The third act climax is the point at the park, I leaves (moves on with his life) and Withnail stays. The audience see the resolution of the movie when I moves out of the house, cuts his hair, puts on nice clothes and becomes a totally different guy – a responsible grown-up citizen the society requires him to be.

The story does not rely on protagonist identification as the movie progresses in small arcs. Even though both of the characters are interesting enough, Withnail stands out in the script. He is a fully rounded character. He is close to fall into “the comic drunk” type, but he seems real, as he is also a remarkably wounded person. That’s one of the reasons why the audience can empathize with him in a sense that they have something in common with the character they can relate to. This is one of the most important factors in character creation: to be able to come up with such a character that has vulnerability all through the story. The audience should be kept on edge as they sympathize and connect with those characters.

The other interesting outcome I came up with from Withnail and I is about the meticulous work on creating an “era” movie. Even though they do not show any dates on the screen, the audience can get the feeling of late 60’s from little details such as pop culture, clothing style, places, furniture, cars etc. In addition, one of the hardest things to do is to reflect the way people used to think at the time on the screen. Bruce Robinson does this job perfectly.

As a result, even though I am not a big fan of British black comedy, I really liked Withnail and I and enjoyed watching it. I might recommend the movie to my friends and even try to play “Withnail and I – Drinking Game” with them. From Withnail and I, I learned many things about, including but not limited to: comedy, character development and culture reflection in screenwriting.

October 28, 2010

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Sarı Zeybek

Sarı Zeybek (1993) is a documentary by Can Dündar about the death of Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK, the founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey, (1881-1938). Dündar collected information from the stories and the official diaries of the people who were around Atatürk in his last 300 days. Even though the director had not had the chance to meet Atatürk, he starts off the documentary by saying that he feels like he knows him very well – many other Turk and I feel the same way.

The documentary consists of many pictures and a few moving images. The voiceover and its exact text scrolling up the screen on those images constitute the main part of the documentary. Since the time span of the documentary is between the late 1937 and November 1938, there were not many movie cameras around in Turkey. And probably in presence of a camera, Atatürk always wanted them to document the country’s modernization efforts, not his personal life. However, even the few captured moving images and other photographs combined with the background music (that makes things even more melancholic) and the voiceovers (power of the script) are enough to make the audience experience the whole story as if it is happening right in front of them at that moment.

The documentary is scripted in a way that the director only uses the official documented incidents by the people around Atatürk. After compiling the quotes and stories, the director put them all together to complete the necessary information that he wants to share with his audience. The document starts off with the inciting incidence of Atatürk’s health not being so well. Atatürk consults people around him about his problem – swelling skin on his arms. One of the doctors tells him that it might be because of the red ants. Thus, they decide to take him to thermal spas meanwhile the staff applies disinfectants to manor house he was living in (false solution). At the spas, another doctor tells him correct diagnosis: cirrhosis. Because of such a late diagnosis and constant consumption of alcohol, his liver had already got into a very bad condition (point of no return).

Then the documentary starts talking about his last actions (second act): such as his last autograph on the book of a new factory; his last waltz; and his last zeybek: a dance of western Anatolian swashbuckling heroes. The name of the last song he perfectly danced to was “Sarı Zeybek – Yellow Zeybek” (also referencing to his golden hair and his zeybek-like personality). Even though his doctors requested him to stay in his bed all the time, Atatürk was dedicated to attend those ceremonies and then toured Southern parts of Turkey in order to show his strength to the rest of the world to be able to succeed in his political requests. He even goes to check on the armies and watch them march for hours on his feet. It was a success. “Hatay problem” was diplomatically solved, but it was going to cost Atatürk’s life (second act climax).

When Atatürk moved to Istanbul in 1938, he was going to stay there until his death because of the rapid acceleration in his sickness (third act). His last happiest moment was the present he got from the ruling party: a yacht. Atatürk tells his friends that he used to wait for this yacht as excited as a little kid waiting for a new toy until he realized that the yacht turned into a hospital for him. The documentary then includes a story that makes me cry every time I watch it: without being able to get out of his bed now, Atatürk is really upset that he cannot attend the 15th Republic Day ceremonies. Coming back from the celebrations, a boatful of young navy students pass in front of the palace, cheering for Atatürk and singing the national 10th Year March. Atatürk makes his friends move himself next to the window and salute all those younglings (climax of the documentary). He dies on November 10, 1938 at 9:05 am. The documentary ends by quoting the last lines his first aide-de-camp wrote down right after Atatürk dies. Then the first aide-de-camp puts a bullet in his own heart – we hear a single gunshot (denouement).

Sarı Zeybey, as being one of the best documentaries out there about Atatürk, successfully captures the spirit of the decay of a legendary commander, president, innovator and a great leader, Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK, by including very sincere stories about his last 300 days from his closest friends, associates and Atatürk himself. Even though the documentary does not always include images in motion, the script is so perfect that the audience hangs onto every word the speakers are saying. While watching this documentary, I always feel like I am next to Atatürk, being one of his close friends and never get bored even though I watch it every year, the same day: November 10.

November 10, 2010

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Superbad

I would like to start off with my most sincere feelings that Superbad was the most entertaining movie we watched for our class so far. Even though Beeswax and Ordinary People were cleverly done, very structured movies for which the script worked out really well, I was bored to death while watching them. I also would like to condemn my female friends who were talking about Superbad two years ago and referring it as “disgusting, offensive, sexist and racist.” No, it was not! This week was the first time I’ve seen Superbad, and I enjoyed it. Actually, I was expecting a really bad movie – like Ghost Rider, but even though I wouldn’t say Superbad was as hilarious as Hangover, it had great mood.

If we were to start with the general storyline, Superbad covers a series of events that happens to three high school seniors who are on their way to buy alcohol for a hot girl’s party. Two of the three, Seth and Evan are best buddies since kindergarten. And the movie revolves around the idea that even though they have to separate for college and they pretend that they don’t need each other, they are actually inseparable. The third kid, Fogell, is a nerd with a ridiculous new Hawaiian fake ID that has the name McLovin on it – agreeing with many of the characters in the movie, I think it is really badass (“Go McLovin!”). Because of his ID, he has to go through an adventure with a couple of fun loving, clumsy cops.

The movie starts with the daily routine of the best buddies, Seth and Evan going to school. In the beginning of the movie, it is clearly shown that they have great desire for women and they are not the most popular kids in school – one of the kids spits on Seth, but none of them can do anything about it. Most of Seth’s and Evan’s conversation is about their brilliant fantasies about the girls in their high school. Point of no return of the movie is the moment when Jules asks Seth to buy alcohol for her party and he accepts the request. Even though they know that they will get in trouble, because of the fact that Seth promises Jules, Seth and Evan decides to go through anything to get alcohol. That decision also acts as the main false solution to Seth’s and Evan’s problem: they think that they can get laid with Jules and Becca – Evan’s crush – if they go to the party, provide their alcohol and get the girls drunk.

The second act covers all the adventures the three kids experience in their quest to buy alcohol. Fogell “McLovin” uses his fake ID to buy alcohol, but because of a burglary, he has to show his ID to a couple of cops, and the cops like McLovin and they decide to take him on a ride around the town for a fun night. At the same time, Seth gets hit by a car, and the driver takes Seth and Evan to a party that they are not really welcomed for the promise of lots of booze. Before they get to Jules’ party, a series of more ridiculous accidents, coincidences and twists happen. For example, one of my favorite moments is Seth’s dirty dance with the fiancée of the brutal party owner. He gets period blood all over his pants and then the homeowner shows up with blood on his pants just as Seth tries to sneak out with lots of beer stored in big detergent cans etc. As another comical factor, Seth gets hits second time by a police car this time and McLovin is in the car etc. Even though those coincidences are not probable, they add humor to the story and keep the script rolling.

At the actual party, because, he is the person among the group who is less likely to getting laid, McLovin is the only one who gets a girl. Hollywood blockbuster screenwriters always choose the most unlikely scenario. Evan on the other hand, refuses to sleep with the girl of his dreams. Seth becomes “the man” of the party as we can see that everybody shouts his name out loud and says “Hi” to him as he passes by even when he is carrying Evan on his arms. The climax of the movie is the police raid to the party. At that moment, Seth decides to save his best friend Evan from the police in a hyped up heroic way. In the third act, Evan and Seth both realize how they love and need each other to be happy.

While all these actions go on in the movie, the audience is influenced under the subtext that “getting laid is the most crucial objective of a male human being.” From an evolutionary point of view, I have to second that idea. All along the human history, in most cultures, while the males’ ultimate goal was to reproduce by spreading their genes as much as they can – seeking the most healthy mother candidates –, females were the ones looking for security and shelter, thus a man who has status and who can provide. If we were to analyze the script, we can see that it makes sense for those high school kids to be obsessed with beautiful girls in the school. The amazing part is that the girls, too, ask help for guys to provide them alcohol (food) to make the party happen. Then, the guys go hunting for alcohol by putting themselves in dangerous situations in order to be seen as alpha males. Thus, the evolutionary roles still apply both in the society and in this specific movie.

As a resolution, I would like to point out again that I enjoyed the movie and I think the script and the methods used in the movie work most of the time. The only problem I had with Superbad was the fact that it used a lot of cliché twists and coincidences that bugged me at some times. Other than that, considering Superbad as a Blockbuster success, I feel like for us, the screenwriting students, Superbad has lots of examples of many successful methods for us to create great build ups and characters for a Comedy.

September 30, 2010

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Hannah and Her Sisters

As any other Woody Allen movie – except the new ones such as Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Cristina Barcelona etc. – Hannah and Her Sisters, too, revolves around similar upper-middle class characters involving in strange affairs. I don’t have anything against Allen – in fact I love his movies, but the sad truth is I can never distinguish which one was which movie (especially Manhattan and Annie Hall) because they are very similar. Even though I watched Hannah and Her Sisters a year ago, I had to watch it again, because even though I know there was a similar story, there were many more characters that made it more complicated to remember.

We can say there are three main protagonists in the movie, thus we need to analyze it in three arcs: Eliot (Hannah’s husband), Mickey (Hannah’s ex-husband) and Holly (Hannah’s sister). Eliot’s story starts with his confession for his admiration of Lee, Hannah’s other sister (Introduction, then Inciting Incident). When Lee starts having an affair with Eliot, the second act of Eliot’s story starts. And the third act is when Eliot break up with Lee and repents to Hannah. Mickey is the neurotic comical relief character of the movie. His journey in the movie starts with the possibility that he might have a serious disease (first act), that leads him to look for many different religions to find the meaning of life (second act), ending with the start of a new relationship with Holly whom he hated a long time ago (third act). The third arc of the movie is Holly’s story. She is an unsuccessful actress and she is looking for new ventures for her life (the Inciting Incident). She tries to do a catering job, fails, and then heads out to become a writer. One day, she gets Mickey to evaluate her writing and the third act for her begins: a great loving relationship with the guy whom she hated before. The Introduction/Exposition of all the characters in the movie starts with a Thanksgiving dinner at Hannah’s house, and the climax of the movie also is at another Thanksgiving dinner at Hannah’s.

Woody Allen’s movies have a certain type of script structure that follows the characters in any story he came up with. As a director who seems to be very loyal to the 3-act structure, Allen carefully constructs all the details in the movie including but not limited to the acts’ beginning, middle and end, dialogues, characters, accidents and reactions in a predetermined way, which makes his movies very motivated and pretty straightforward to understand. Hannah and Her Sisters is one of the more complex examples of his work. By using a 3-arc structure in a 1 hour 40 minute movie, he does a pretty good job to develop his characters and plot.

From Hannah and Her Sisters, I learned that the ability to tell such a complex story in such a limited time is one of the most important skills to gain to be a successful screenwriter, because it is also one of the hardest things to accomplish. Even though I try really hard to cut as much unnecessary items in my scripts as I can to get to the point in addition to my efforts of coming up with a 3-act structure that has a certain beginning, a middle and an end, it seems really hard to accomplish that naturally. Therefore, I feel like I should look into more structured classic scripts, such as those Woody Allen movies, to base my own stories.

October 14, 2010

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Summer Pasture

I would like to start off this writing with my sincere feelings during our class session that I liked Nelson Walker as both a filmmaker and a nice human being. I was the first person to arrive to the screening and the last guy leaving – of course my job being the projectionist had also a small part in that.

I think Summer Pasture was a great movie. The picture was stunningly beautiful: framing, colors, nature, animals were spectacular. This year was the first time I literally held a movie camera in my hands and tried to find nice frames and compositions to shoot. Even though it is much easier to distinguish a good shot from a bad one while watching movies and TV series, I realized creating my own mise-en-scene is a totally different and much harder experience. When Nelson Walker started to talk about the hardships they faced as they were shooting their movie, such as lighting, electricity, hours of ride on cars and then yaks and horses, tape and sound problems, it made me appreciate the movie much more.

The context of Summer Pasture very well portrayed the life of a nomad family in Tibet without being political at all. The idea of not being able to understand what the family was talking about, but still shooting them according to their body language just thrilled me. Even after the movie was done, Nelson Walker, told us that there were hundreds hours of footage to be first translated, and then edited. Since people talking the dialect the nomad family used were scarce, they had to find a couple of immigrants from that area in New York City, but the problem was those Tibetans did not know how to speak in English. For that reason, they had to find another person who can understand those people and then translate what they are saying to English, resulting the dialogue to be translated twice. And after hearing all those stories, I started to look at the movie as a miracle that there were so many great conversations about family, life and love. For example, one of my favorite moments was the father talking about how they fell in love and progressed their relationship towards marriage. It was pure, sincere and intelligent.

Honestly, before seeing Nelson Walker in person, I thought of him as a Tibetan or Chinese guy, who shot the movie to make the world realize what a great culture they have. Frankly, who, in his sane mind, would go to a place he doesn’t even understand the language, hours and hours away from his homeland, to live for months without any of the advantages our modern world provides us? Well, Nelson Walker, did! And he did well; he had a great idea and executed it in the best way possible in his Summer Pasture. I would like to thank him for making us experience a nomad life while we were sitting on our comfortable couches, because I feel like I will never be able to have that kind of a chance again in my short life. And I hope that I won’t have to: it is a hard life.

September 28, 2010

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Beeswax

Beeswax is a movie about a pair of identical twin sisters. One of the sisters has to go around in a wheelchair, presenting the idea of “same face, different bodies.” The script is an example of “Mini Plot”, in other words: nothing (big) happens. The audience has to watch all kinds of awkward and uncomfortable moments that could happen to ordinary people in casually uninteresting interactions, “fly on the wall” style. If I said I really liked the movie, it would be a lie. However, the basic concepts of structure are still present in the movie.

We are introduced to the movie in the small boutique the sister with the wheelchair, Jeannie, owns with her partner, Amanda (Introduction/Exposition). With the arrival of a new staff member to the shop, the audience, too, has a general idea of how the things work around the shop as Jeannie tell her about the job. That is a commonly used technique by many screenwriters: introduce a character who is new to the place and let the audience learn about it along with that new character who might also happen to be the protagonist who “will” change the things around etc. The Inciting Incident is the time we see Amanda for the first time in the shop and the subject of a paycheck comes up in her conversation with Jeannie – the point of no return. We know that there is a conflict between Amanda and Jeannie. When Jeannie goes out to have lunch/dinner with an old friend, Merrill, for his help is the point where the second act starts, and thus Jeannie’s quest to save her shop and partnership from Amanda. The third act begins after Jeannie now becomes sure that Amanda went to the court to finish the partnership, thus, Jeannie has to go to other people to be her partner. The climax of the movie is the morning Lauren has to go to the airport for her new job and Jeannie gets the letter from the court.

As I said before, Beeswax is the movie of communication problems that arise through many awkward moments and uncomfortable conversations with people, even if they are friends. None of the characters in the movie are saying the things they really want to say. Instead, with a huge deal of effort, they barely insinuate how they really feel. Thus, the concept of the difference between text and subtext is a really important issue in Beeswax, because no one in the movie is saying what they mean with words. The silence between the sentences and expressions on people’s faces are more important than the conversation itself. Therefore, the audience, too, should read between the lines in the dialogue, which seems to be mostly improvised, but actually not. The dialogues are mostly scripted since Andrew Bujalski’s style is noted for awkwardly casual characters that try to avoid the key topic in their interactions.

Overall, from Beeswax, I learned how the Mini Plot works and the difference of text and subtext. Thus, while writing my dialogues, I should be able to convey very different meanings from what actors’ mouth is saying to what actors’ heart and eyes are really saying.

September 9, 2010

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Adam's Rib

Adam’s Rib is a great comedy classic. Happily married lawyers Adam (Spencer Tracy) and Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn) get assigned to the same court case, defending opposite sides. While Amanda takes the case as a personal mission to protect the equality of women under the law, Adam tries to work for the outcome that a guilty person should be punished according to the law no matter what her gender is. Personally, I really liked the movie. My favorite character was Adam, a guy trying to do his job even though his wife is delusioned by her womanly instincts to compete with guys in every possible arena.

The inciting incident of the movie is when Amanda decides to take the same assaulting case they read in the paper after Adam tells her that he was assigned to. The first act ends with its climax when Adam finds out that Amanda has willingly taken the same case he was assigned to. Then the second act begins. The second act consists of all the court scenes in the movie. The second act climax is when Adam busts Amanda with a neighbor and threatens them with a chocolate gun. And the climax of the movie is when Adam and Amanda go to their accountant and Adam starts crying there.

The thematic movement of the story revolves around the personal and professional life of a married couple that gets along pretty well in the house, but competes endlessly in the court. The controlling idea is that even though there are differences between man and woman, it is so small that they are actually the same people. Adam also rephrases that idea at the end of the movie right before they make love on the bed, which has also a thematic suggestion staying in the middle of the screen throughout the house scenes. Even though outside the house they might compete, Adam and Amanda are actually the same person, and they become “one body” at home (in bed). The title, too, refers to the same idea from the Biblical story of the creation of Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.

As a comedy studying gender binaries, its characters break out of the stereotypes in many cases: Amanda takes her professional job more seriously than her relationship with Adam; Adam gets raised to the air by one of the women in the court; Adam cries at the end of the movie to show his wife that a man’s tears might be deadlier than a woman’s, because men use that weapon just for a few times in their lives even though women might cry constantly. All the scenes in the movie are well thought out and carefully constructed that there are no accidents in the script. There are two Adams: Public Adam and Private Adam. The audience sees how different he is at home and outside, especially in the court. To the outside world, he seems to be a serious man who respects all the rules of the society. And he is not afraid to confront Amanda about this issue. But still, most of the arguments in the movie are done through agonistic dialogue instead of confrontational ones.

As a result, I really liked Adam’s Rib for many reasons that includes its breaking out of the stereotypes, its use of perfect script and deep characters. In addition, I also learned the difference between confrontational and agonistic dialogue in this movie.

September 16, 2010

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Chungking Express

I would like to start off my response with the fact that there are many things I liked (such as the Blond girl with the shades) and disliked (California Dreamin’ playing constantly in the background) in Chungking Express. Even though I liked the movie in general and I think that it has a very original style, I regret to state the fact that I realized there were in fact two different cops in the movie only after we started talking about it in class.

We need to analyze the script by dividing it into two stories: Cop 223 and Cop 663. In the class, we kind of agreed on the idea that it was hard to come up with the perfect 3-act restorative structure for this movie. The first story starts out with Cop 223 telling the audience about his break up with his girlfriend, May (Introduction/Exposition). There are actually two arcs in this story: Cop and the Blond woman with shades. At the same time we are also introduced to the Blond drug dealer character that Cop 223 talks about (Inciting Incident). The story of the cop goes to the second act when he realizes that May is not coming back, in fact his love is now expired on May 1. Meanwhile, the Blond woman’s quest for looking for the people who double crossed her starts when she gets ditched by them in the airport security (first act climax for the Blond). We can say the point the cop and the Blond meet at the bar is the start of the second act for the cop. The third act for the cop is when he goes out for jogging early in the morning; and the climax of the story is the point when he gets a birthday message from the Blond on his pager. And the climax of the third act for the Blond is when she kills her drug dealer boss.

The movie transitions to the next story as Cop 223 tells that there is a new staff member in the food shop, Faye, but she falls in love with another guy, Cop 663. The cop and Faye get to talk to each other for the first time when he comes in to the shop to order something for his girlfriend (Introduction/Exposition). The first act ends when Cop 663’s ex-girlfriend, a flight attendant, drops an envelope for him at the food shop (Inciting Incident). The second act starts when Faye starts going in the cop’s house without his permission and changing things around the house. The second act climax is when they make an actual date – that never happens, because Faye leaves the town to see other countries. The third act is when Cop is lonely again and begins thinking about Faye, but she is long gone. The climax of the movie is when Faye comes back to the food shop and finds out that the cop bought it for himself.

I really liked how a story can be told by breaking all the standards and forms, both in narrative script and cinematic styles. Even though we are told that we shouldn’t try something like that in our scripts for the class, I feel like it was really refreshing to watch such casual stories being told in wildly original ways – with a lot of allusions and references to the popular culture as well. As a person who loves Hollywood, I realized I should watch more movies from other countries.

November 11, 2010

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Çok Güzel Hareketler Bunlar

Çok Güzel Hareketler Bunlar (These are Really Good Moves) is a TV show started in 2008 by Yılmaz Erdoğan who directs a group of young theater actors who write their own scripts and act in them. This is a really interesting concept that I feel like they work on an advanced/professional version of what we are doing in class: writing scripts and acting in them as we shoot the movies. Except, they act on a theater stage, get broadcasted on a national channel, get more famous and make money out of it.

For a typical episode (all Turkish TV series are 1 hour and 30 minutes), they have 4 to 7 comedy sketches. These sketches include a lot of popular culture/news references. The jargon they use is the same one you can hear in daily conversations of typical university students, which make the show popular among young people most even though many older adults enjoy it, too. The jokes they use are generally combinations of the popular jokes in bastardized forms of older proverbs, wordplay, stereotypes, lyrics and mocking of popular movies, public figures or events. Sometimes it is even possible to see the celebrities they imitate and make so much fun of, coming to the theater and making a cameo in some of the sketches. In Çok Güzel Hareketler Bunlar, generally the literal truth, factual accuracy or plausibility is not necessary for vibing with the audience and conveying their message as long as they succeed to break out of the stereotypes and offer a totally different point of view on the matters at hand.

As they act on stage, the theater seats are full with a real big audience that judges their performance at the end of each sketch. The director, Yılmaz Erdoğan, first asks the audience if it was a “Really Good Move,” or a “Really Really Good Move,” or just a “Good Move.” The audience applauses accordingly, then a few of them (mostly little kids) comment on the sketch or ask questions. Then the director, being the actors’ tutor, comments on the work, and they move on to the next sketch. Erdoğan, is really helpful in actors’ quest to make people laugh, but also think at the same time. Throughout the series, he gives a lot of information about writing comedy and the important elements that constitutes a good play. One of the advices he gives to his pupils is that, no matter what, a play should have a theme and a controlling idea. That is why he keeps asking the theme and the idea at the end of each sketch to the members of the audience until he gets a perfect answer.

As a candidate for being one of blossoming screenwriters, I feel like there are a lot of things to learn from other people’s work. Çok Güzel Hareketler Bunlar is a useful, fun and creative way to do such a study considering the fact that they, too, produce their sketches after intense workshops under the supervision of a more experienced actor, director and screenwriter, Yılmaz Erdoğan. Even though we might aim for having an original way of writing as we try breaking out of the norms, it is important to attend our teachers’ advice even when they ask us about the basics of the scripts, such as the theme and lesson of the story.

December 6, 2010

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Breathless

What Jean-Luc Godard added to the history of cinema montage-wise with Breathless (1960) is definitely his powerful use of jump cuts. In order to cut down two and a half hours of stock down to one and a half hours, Godard and his editor Cécile Decugis removed all moments within the scenes or even shots that lack vigor and fail to evoke enthusiasm in Godard. Without being concerned with the conventional continuity, camera angles or dramatic import rules, Godard only kept the strongest moments in the final cut. That’s why during scenes like “driving on the countryside,” there are seemingly random jump cuts.

“Driving on the Countryside” scene

Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmundo) is driving a stolen car on the countryside. First, we see a car in front of the camera; then the car suddenly disappears to become a BP oil tanker. And then the oil tanker disappears and another car comes up on the screen. Normally, those cuts would be considered to be amateur mistakes. However, in Godard’s Breathless, these deliberately unwholesome frames break the illusion of reality in the movie theaters for a seemingly comical and self-conscious filmmaking: one of the features of the French New Wave. Again, it is one of the reasons why the characters look into the camera – or the audience – with certain awareness that they are being watched. One of the most obvious examples is the part where Michel talks about France as in the manner of advertorials and then finally faces the camera for the last time for the punch line: “Then get stuffed!”

The camera gets shaky when it shows the outside because of the moving car. The cameraman is sometimes sitting at the back seat and then the front one. We hear Michel’s voice singing, or talking about a random stuff that has nothing to do with the plot of the movie, but adds a lot to the character development. When Michel shoots at the sky, we just see him pointing out of the car and then there is a cut to the sky – right at that moment we hear a gun shot and understand that “he fired at the sky.”

Godard makes another point by also using disoriented angles in Breathless. The police chase part of the scene is a little bit confusing because of the use of angles. Or in the part where Michel kills a police officer, the gun seems like looking towards Michel’s side of the frame, but we realize in the next cut the policeman in the frame has suddenly moved to the opposite side, so that he dies since the gun was pointed at him at the first place.

Thus, Godard tells us at the first couple of minutes of his movie that Breathless was not meant to have a conventional style. By throwing those “error” at his audience’s face, Godard merely emphasizes the importance of those conventions and the resulting discomfort in their lack. However, those discontinuities and other self-conscious features give the movie a more immediate and spontaneous feeling of a documentary.

October 29, 2010

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Head On (Duvara Karşı)

In Head On (2004), Fatih Akın uses relevant camera movements as a subjective tool to reflect Sibel’s state of mind in accordance with the mood of the scene when Sibel, the heroine of the story, goes to Istanbul, gets drunk in a night club and then gets raped by the bartender.

“Bar - Dance” Scene – Part 1


The scene starts in a bar atmosphere where Sibel dances crazily in the middle of a small room full of people. The camera following her with medium shots and medium close-ups, is also dancing with her. Compared to other people around the bar room, it can be sensed that Sibel is not in control of her own body and actions because of high alcohol level in her blood. In order to suggest a subjective framing for her uncontrollable acts, the camera, too, is moving left and right with a lot with panning, tracking back and forth and very little of tilting up and down – even though tilting effect is not used too much, the audience perceives it strongly because of Sibel’s zippy dance: jumping up and down hastily. Although as Sibel is drunk and cannot control herself much, she is conscious enough to know that she is dancing; the camera, too, portrays a vision close to the tipsy awareness of the fact that it needs to show Sibel, but it becomes hard to keep track of her in a still framing. While showing us this highly animated scene, the camera focuses mostly on the actress: the background is blurry, mostly out of focus and mildly in dark, whereas Sibel is illuminated with the domination of red and yellow colors as she is dancing all over the place. In accordance with the drunken state of the actress, sometimes she is out of focus in front of the camera, sometimes she is shining or left in the dark, and even sometimes the camera loses her sight as she moves along. Following the abrupt quick cuts which are felt incomplete by the audience just as the concept of time seems in bits and pieces to a drunkard person, there are some parts in which all the aspects of mise-en-scene seem blurry, mainly in dark colors, illuminated by high key lighting, which especially illuminates Sibel from top/side/back/frontal lighting: aspects all of which suggest Sibel’s rapidness on acting out and her mind’s cloudy state of consciousness. Careful viewers should have also noticed the harmony between Depeche Mode’s song I Feel You playing in the room, Sibel’s dance and the camera movements: all in the rhythm of the song. Along with this rhythm acquiring viciously impetuous movements, circles also play an important role in this scene suggesting Sibel’s hopeless state in a vicious circle: for the time being, she is drunk that the whole world seems swirling around – the camera also moves in circles – in the long term, she is helpless until her sweetheart, the protagonist, Cahit, gets out of jail in Germany and comes to Istanbul as well. After Sibel’s spinning dance exceeds to a point that she loses her balance, the camera becomes her eyes and we see the beginning of her fall from her own personal point of view: they – Sibel and the camera – fall together on the floor (where there is a painting, presumably an alcohol bottle); so we, the spectators, fall…

“Bar - Rape” Scene – Part 2

After Sibel’s ultimate fall, the second part of the scene begins with a superimposition cut from dance to the rape theme. The camera shows the whole room as well as Sibel (passed out) and the bartender (smoking) in focus, but still blurred; there is no one else left in the bar. Sibel and the bartender are in the middle of the room, which is lighted from sides and top as if it is a well crafted stage and the action of rape occurs there – spotlights are on the actor and the actress.

The main difference between these two parts is the unconscious state of the heroine who passed out after dancing like a crazy drunkard – literally, she was. These two parts of the scene in the same bar room are mainly opposites of each other as also presented by the position of Sibel’s body: in the first part when she falls, her feet were on the left side; and now her head is on the left and her feet are on her head’s previous position – that is basically shooting the rape scene from the opposite side of the room, a violation of 180 degrees rule: emphasizing the non-continuity and the lack of movement in this part as opposed to the previous go-go part at which she was madly dancing. This lack of movement/consciousness is suggested perfectly with the lack of camera movements: as she lies on the floor, the camera stays still and just becomes a spectator from a distance by a long shot. Because she cannot sense or care whatever happens to her, the isolated static camera stays indifferent to the following event and portrays it in an anti-climatic mode: a rape, which actually plays a significant role in Sibel’s life.

While the bartender molests her, the camera does not move, watching everything indifferently just as Sibel and the spectators do. Therefore, it can still be suggested that the camera is subjective even though it is positioned far away from the action and does not move. The distanced still camera position also lets depressed/annoyed/bored spectators to slowly analyze the surrounding setting in the room, both background and foreground without a hurry, so they can notice some little details such as a famous Turkish beer brand, Efes Pilsen, commercial’s neon light blinks on and off only in the action of rape, but not before and after that. By the help of ellipsis editing, the viewers experience a real time sense that occurs with the cross-dissolve of shots on top of each other from the static camera’s same frame position: right before the rape, during the rape, and after the rape. As another aspect relevant to the camera’s lack of movement in this part, there is no more background music in the room, as if: she passes out, the music ceases and the camera movement stops since there is no rhythm or dance to follow by. All in all, Sibel does not (or cannot) care, because she is unconscious.

As a conclusion, we have seen how Fatih Akın uses the camera movements as a subjective tool to reflect Sibel’s state of mind and its interconnection with all the other aspects of mise-en-scene and cinematography in accordance with the abovementioned scene in Head On – one of the top five among hundreds of Turkish movies I have seen.

September 20, 2010

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Ezel

Ezel (2009 – Present) is the most popular TV series as of today in Turkey. The drama series is about a guy who got cheated by two of his close friends and his girlfriend who framed him for a casino robbery he was no part of. Years later, for his revenge, he gets out of prison with a different face and a different name: Ezel. The second season of the series tells two different stories: the ongoing vengeance story of Ezel in the present and the story of his mentor, Ramiz Dayı, in early 70s.

“Ezel”, Episode 44 – “Ramiz Dayı’s Tavern” scene
Ezel 44.Bölüm Selma Ramiz Gazino Sahnesi

The scene starts with the announcer [close up on his face with the microphone] introduces singer Selma on the stage. The establishing shot is the whole tavern in different layers. The closest level is the table Ramiz is at; next one is the other tables; then the stage and the musicians at the very back, mostly under a cloud of smoke. The picture quality and colors are fainted to yellow a little bit to give the feeling of 70s – it is really successful. There is a big light in the middle, and everyone in the place has shadows accordingly. The atmosphere is perfect that a classic Turkish song is playing as diegetic sound; the customers are drinking their Rakı (a liquorish Turkish drink) clapping; waiters going all around etc.

The camera is usually handheld, but it is very stable. For the next shot, we look at Ramiz from the bottom of the stage and then focus on his friend who is sitting in the front, applauding Selma. Then we see Selma from the audience; she bows. Most of the close-ups to the characters put their faces in one third of the screen in focus and then someone else in the very front, out of focus, on the other side of the frame. This is a very commonly used technique in the scene: someone is in focus, but we see another person in the back/foreground, then the camera either cuts to that person, takes his point of view or that person goes next to the other one. Therefore, we are aware of what’s going on in the surrounding area, but also focus on the person we need to pay attention. This is a great technique that I have just noticed. And I can’t believe I figured such a trivial detail this late.

The cameraman also mirrors the actors’ movements: for example, when Ramiz gets up the camera moves up, too (no tilting). When Ramiz throws the bottle on a column, the director uses really quick cuts to get three reaction shots for such an unexpected action. Very careful viewers might notice that the singer also hesitates for a second, but then continues to sing the song (we just hear that nuance in her voice). Ramiz takes his gun out and the camera moves from his face up to the gun, quickly trying to mirror the motion. When he pulls the trigger a couple of times, the whole tavern gets silent: including the musicians, so there is not any diegetic or non-diegetic background music now. Then we see Selma from the back of the gun looking at Ramiz – great framing.

The end of the scene is also important to mention. After Ramiz drinks rakı and puts its glass on Selma’s head, all the photographer start taking photos and a couple of flashes illuminate the room. We see Ramiz and Selma on stage with a great framing that Ramiz is on the very left and Selma on the right; Ramiz is pointing his gun at the rakı glass over Selma’s head. Selma’s the point of view shot is next: Ramiz is almost in the middle of the screen to the left with a close up and his gun is to the right, creating a perfect full frame. The screen slowly dissolves to black as Ramiz pulls the trigger.

November 29, 2010

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Fight Club

Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher is one of the movies I watch every year and say “I wish I’ve done that,” each time I see it. I was not really interested in the cinematic techniques of it until today; the thing I admired was “the Fight Club legacy”.

“Final” scene

The ending of the movie starts just like the beginning: The Narrator opens his eyes, looks at the gun, then to person holding the gun in his mouth [the camera angle is high – Tyler Durden’s point of view]. We see Tyler from next to the Narrator looking up; the gun and the Narrator’s face is still visible, but they are not in focus. The next shot has great framing: the close up on the Narrator’s face [right half of the frame] and the gun on the other half. Then we finally get an establishing shot: Tyler and the Narrator are in the middle of a big empty room [long shot]; two background levels: the windows and the other plazas far away.

The camera is very steady and does not move much unless a character moves – then the camera slowly mirrors the movement, mostly by tracking or pans. The room is dark, dimly lit by the blue night-lights. The characters are mostly in shadows – dim soft lighting. In the room there are a couple of construction light sources and Fincher makes use of that really good: as Tyler passes in front of a light source to look out the window, his body casts a shadow on the Narrator’s face. After Tyler slams the Narrator to the window, the shot of the Narrator from outside, showing him and the glass reflecting the other plazas around is very well done. Fincher makes use of framing in his medium shots a lot. The Narrator is centered in the screen as he tries to reason with Tyler. As they start talking, the camera leaves a space in the frame to the direction the characters are faced: for example, Tyler is sitting on the chairs on the left. Narrator is then located at the right third of the frame.

A very subtle editing strategy is that when the Narrator starts thinking “The gun is in my hand,” we see that Tyler is holding the gun. Then the camera shows the Narrator once more from the same angle, but then slowly tilts down as he looks down to reveal that the gun is actually in his hand. We get a medium shot of Tyler with an empty hand and a confused look on his face to complete the cycle: the gun switched hands. A non-diegetic background music slowly plays in the background until Tyler says, “Yeah, good for you. That doesn’t change anything.” The music suddenly stops and then starts again when the Narrator puts the gun on his own chin. As the Narrator cocks the gun, the camera moves down on an extreme close-up of the gun – which seems really cool. When he pulls the trigger, there is a slow motion of special effects, then quick cuts of two long shots from both sides and a close up of the gun hitting the floor and the Narrator is sitting on his chair in blood. And finally we see Tyler’s head is smoking, then to reveal the big gunshot wound at the back of his head.

The very final scene is also very well framed: as all the plazas falls down in the far background, the Narrator and Marla are positioned symmetrically in the middle of the screen, each having a space of his/her own in the window frames; and their hands are in the very middle of the screen that is also divided by the window frame. [Then a naked guy comes in and out of the screen, spoiling our fun – nasty Tyler.]

September 28, 2010

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Valley of the Wolves / Kurtlar Vadisi (KV)

A typical Thursday night, 9:45 pm. American Robert College of Istanbul: All the lights would go off in the high school. There would be a chaotic rush towards the lounge in the boys’ dormitory. Everybody would try to go there before the others to get a better seat on the couches. Ninety boys, including me and my friends, would gather in front of TV to watch the legend: Kurtlar Vadisi (2003). We used to write down all those quotes from the TV and then recite them for weeks in our daily conversations. We were crazed about the idea of coming up with new theories for the future episodes. KV was the reason I bought my overcoat that I still wear all the time. KV was the reason we all got traditional rosaries to swing around to pretend we were tough guys. As I write down these lines, I have to stop now and then just to look back and recollect all the memories associated with it; every part of my body shudders. I feel its strong presence in every single memoir souvenir of my high school years in Turkey.

The KV legend was a fiction concept started off as a TV series, which became so powerful that a whole country was moved by its effect for many years. Its influence wasn’t only because we grow up with KV in our adolescence years. Our parents and grandparents were also obsessed with the show that was launched as “a Mafia TV series.” All the values KV exalted were already hardwired in the Turkish culture: bravery, valor, honor, nationalism, flag, love, folklore, fidelity, integrity, religion and sacrifice for a greater good… All it had to do was to blend those forgotten treasures into a nostalgia that revolves around the intense world of valiant hoodlums. The ideology was strongly based on the continuity between the reflective and restorative modes of nostalgia. By promoting a romantic and celebratory vision of belonging, KV engaged with the glorified past of the Turkish nation. Even though the concept was highly masculine, KV had many more female fans, like my mother. Of course there was also a prejudiced group of people who had never watched KV at all.

Inspired by the American TV series Wiseguy (1987-1990), Turkish director and producer Osman Sınav started the first season of the controversial TV series phenomenon KV in 2003 with the slogan of “This is a Mafia series,” promising to reveal the real dark secrets of the Turkish underground world. KV follows the journey of an undercover Turkish secret service agent, Polat Alemdar, who had to change his whole identity, including his face with plastic surgery, in order to infiltrate the Turkish Mafia from the very bottom – leaving his family and loved ones behind for the sacred mission to serve his nation. The original TV series ends in 2005 whenPolat Alemdar causes the Mafia to collapse almost single handedly.

Since the series revolve around the underground world of criminals some of who already deserved punishment by betraying the motherland or tyrannizing innocent people, it enables KV to get away with the excessive use of violence in its solutions to the conflicts. A Turkish film critic Gönül Dönmez-Colin harshly criticizes KV for abusing that fact: “The most important characteristic of the enemy is that they wound ‘our’ honor and insult ‘our’ flag. In modern Turkey, where nationalism is on the rise, particularly manifest in soccer games, celebrations of national holidays and ‘going to do military service’ festivities, ‘historical fantasies’ have become cult films, predominantly favored by guideless adolescents (many from middle-class homes) who identify with the characters. [KV was many times considered to] be taken off the air for inciting the young to violence after several incidents where the perpetrators admitted they were inspired by the actions of Polat Alemdar.” [American Robert College of Istanbul is one of most prestigious and modern high schools in Turkey. It’s alumni includes Prime Ministers like Bülent Ecevit, Tansu Çiller, and a Nobel Prize winner novelist Orhan Pamuk… All those students watching the show will be a counter-argument to Gönül Dönmez-Colin’s thesis about the “guideless adolescents identifing with the [KV] characters.”]

Even though I do not fully agree with her opinioned article that associates soccer games with highly nationalistic ideologies while also presenting some incorrect information about the TV series, it is worth to focus on the incidents mentioned above. I have already discussed its massive influence on the people in my life. Here are two stories I read from newspaper articles about KV. The first one is a funny story of the loyal fans who made KV a modern folk legend. After the death of one of the main characters, Süleyman Çakır – my favorite one as well – of the TV series, people in many different small villages organized real funerals to honor that ‘Godfather’ figure (one of the strengths of the screenwriters was their ability to bravely kill off the important characters and to come up with others). The ironic fact is that one of those funerals happened at stadium in a big city with the incentives of the local government officials. The other story involves two very similar, but separate murders that happened in the same week: a high school kid cuts one of his classmates’ throat reciting the same lines as of Polat Alemdar after a small argument, imitating a similar controversial scene in KV, in which Polat kills a Mafioso boss.

Every single element of KV is meant to evoke certain hypnotic emotional states for the audience. The use of repetitive approach in TV series that gives the producers a chance to anchor each theme in the viewers’ minds brings KV fans into a deeper hypnotic state every single week. The anchors KV uses are the faces, voices and gestures of the characters, nostalgic uses of traditional Turkish values and aphorism, items such as rosaries, cigarettes, guns and most importantly the theme songs that consists of the covers of the Turkish folk songs. For example, even though I did not watched or read anything about KV for the last two months before I started this analysis, one song from the soundtrack was enough for me remember a scene I was watching with my family. In that scene of the 94th episode, Polat finally admits his parents that in fact he did not die three years ago, but he had to change his face to get a new identity. Then, Polat and his mother break down in tears to hug each other; at the same time at home, my mother hugs me crying. Even now, when I associate the emotional accumulation of memories of hardships Polat faces throughout all these episodes and bond them with my life, for instance leaving home for boarder school when I was thirteen, my eyes fill with tears. This is one of the core evaluations in my analysis to fully explain why and how KV was such a big influence. I hope I was tactile enough to break down and illustrate how strongly people in front of their TVs can associate themselves with the fictional characters they got to know through the years. That is the legend of KV.

For many people Kurtlar Vadisi legend was the original TV series of 2003-2005: an undercover agent, Polat Alemdar, giving up his life to collapse Turkish Mafia that he was first to become the leader of, in the glorified but at the same time detested world of gangsters, including his buddy, Süleyman Çakır. KV meant a world to his fans. And the producers acknowledge that fact at the end of the final episode with a short sentence: “We’d like to thank our appreciative nation who made Walley of the Wolves what it is today.”

November 15, 2010

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The Godfather

My favorite movie: The Godfather (1972) by Francis Ford Coppola.

“Intro” – Opening Scene

The movie starts with the title: “Mario Puzo’s The Godfather,” The Godfather Waltz is playing in the background. The camera has a close-up centered on Bonasera’s face uttering the words, “I believe in America…” As he talks, the camera zooms out of him very slowly until Bonasera stays in the right third of the frame and Don Vito Corleone’s out of focus silhouette appears on the left. We can hear The Godfather’s voice, but cannot see his face – considering that this shot is a long take, it makes us more excited about taking just one look at him from the front. Bonasera, almost blended in the dark background, gets up and whispers in Don Corleone’s ear [it is still the first take]. Right at the time he says it, Coppola breaks-180 degree rule and shows Don Corleone on the right of the frame as Bonasera leaves from the left. By ending the [first] long take of the movie, Coppola signals the abruptness of Bonasera’s request to the Godfather.

The Godfather, situated on the right side of the frame, is seen through a close-up starting from his shoulders. The dotted lines of light coming out of the windows behind him gives a sense of depth to the space. Then the establishing shot comes: the whole room is dimly illuminated by the light coming in from the windows and the desk lamp on the very right [as the light sources in front of the screen]. The Godfather is centered in the middle of the room, sitting at his desk. Everybody in the room with their black tuxedos and suits almost blends in with the dark background.

Then, a medium shot shows Don Corleone on the left, but the right half of the screen is almost black because of the fact that Bonasera is standing in front of him. We see Don Corleone from an angle a little bit higher than his face, and Bonasera from Don Corleone’s seated level. The scene certainly does not show Bonasera being superior to Don Corleone. Coppola uses this technique to give a sense of point of view to the conversation. It is also important to mention that throughout the scene the characters’ eyes are cast under the shadow, especially the Godfather’s, to give a sense of mystery to the character – we can never know what he is thinking.

Coppola uses cuts only in necessary places, making each shot really long – thus, the pace of the movie is very slow (one of the reasons some people fall asleep while watching this 3 hours of excellent work). The camera is very steady, probably on a tripod. It mirrors the Godfather’s moves as he gets up: slowly following him with a pan. When the Godfather stands in front of Bonasera, the wall divides the screen into two frames between two characters: the background behind the Godfather is well lit, and Bonasera is left in the dark. From an other angle, we can see, Sonny – bored, listens to their conversation half-heartedly. In the next shot after Bonasera accepts the Godfather’s friendship and kisses his hand, he gets in the well-lit background with Don Corleone as well.

The Godfather leads Bonasera to the door, which is not illuminated at all; both characters blend into the background. After Bonasera gets of the room, Don Corleone gives his directions to the Consigliore, Tom Hagen, to perform the dark scheme that needs to be carried out. The scene end as the Godfather smells the rose on his tuxedo. The first time viewers might be surprised to see the change in lighting and the mood of the story in the next scene: coming out of the dark office of an underground boss to a wedding ceremony.

November 7, 2010

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The Shining

The role of setting and its relevance to the subject is a vital narrative element for conveying the story’s points of view in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The plot is set through the presence of mysterious events or visions around the characters psychologically emphasizing the idea of being trapped in a huge space, The Overlook Hotel, for a long time. There is no one to pull Danny (Danny Lloyd), Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and Jack (Jack Nicholson) out of the hotel’s carefully detailed master plan.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” scene

The huge Colorado Lounge that Jack uses as his typing room makes Jack and Wendy more abruptly aware of the fact that not only they are lonely in this hotel, but they are also totally isolated from any other outside interaction. Wendy becomes aware of Jack’s mental situation after she discovers tons of papers “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” written on. The camerawork here is excellent that we only see the typewriter and the words on paper in a perfectly symmetric framing. Then we see Wendy’s face down from the point of the typewriter. As she goes through the papers in horror, the eerie background noise helps, too.

The screen goes black and the camera moves towards the left, revealing Wendy from the back as if someone is watching her. This is a great technique to add a “spying person” to the scene. The room is very well illuminated with the lights coming out of windows, which shines on both characters consecutively, Wendy and Jack, as they circle around the room. While circling process reflects their inertia to the situation in which they already have limited moves in the hotel, lights shining behind Jack allude to Wendy’s confusion with the illumination of certain facts about Jack’s madness while it also becomes harder for her to focus on Jack at that point because of the light. Since it is a winter light reflecting through snow, everything in the room is seen more brownish, leaving vivid colors out of the color palette. We can see various depths to the backgrounds are changing while the characters circle around, and the background objects and the background space is not totally out focus, reminding viewers the huge space behind the characters, increasing the solitude and the insecure position Wendy is in with Jack in the middle of the room – like in Coliseum, the arena of gladiators who are ready to chop each other up into little pieces in a few minutes.

The souls of the Indians who were massacred on the construction of the hotel, now watch them through the Indian figures’ eyes. We can also see the subjective camera circling around with the characters in the room. However, the camera’s movements are much more controlled than Wendy’s and Jack’s. The steady-cam lets the camera to be the eye of the house, the clever predator (in long cuts), watching its plan unraveling on this well crafted stage in which every object is clear cut and tidily set at symmetrically definite, right angles. Therefore, the presence of an intelligent threat such the hotel itself constitutes a greater problem for the characters that are already trapped and can absolutely have no help from outside, especially when the snow blocks all the roads and communication tools. In this whole room, the stairs seems to be the only way out – as also a philosophical concept that stairs leading to the heaven, or perfection – and Wendy uses that opportunity.

October 29, 2010

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