Ata Demirer’s ‘Niyazi Gul’ galloping into frenzy

Only a month and a half after releasing “Kocan Kadar Konui” (Talk as much as your husband), the Beiiktai Cultural Center film studio, BKM Film, has released its newest comedy, “Niyazi Gul DOrt Nala” (Niyazi Gul, the Galloping Vet) with 325 copies in Turkish cinemas.

The studio’s favorite ensemble is back, led by Ata Demirer and Demet Akbai who had previously co-starred in the “Eyyvah Eyvah” family comedy series set in Thrace.

Based on Demirer’s comedy sketches of an eccentric veterinarian and animal rights advocate, “Niyazi Gul” once again offers a load of laughs, though this story has a difficult time with plot points and tempo.

BKM staff director Hakan Algul is back in the director’s seat after his previous hit “Deliha” from this winter, about a tomboy’s misadventures in her lunatic neighborhood.

A note about BKM comedies: Almost all of their films pass the 1.5 million admissions mark, suggesting that Turkish audiences feel safe in their filmmaking hands — as they know exactly what to expect from BKM performances, scripts, comic tone and atmosphere — one has to admit that these studio comedies have begun to look like each other. It is almost as if they are all shot in the same neighborhoods in parallel universes. Surely this is not a surprise. In fact it’s a formula that seems to be working, yet I have to admit that I can’t help wishing that with so much resources and talent, BKM would up its game just a notch into edgier waters.

After an Instagram-infused opening sequence set in the 1970s highlighting the God-given talent of a village boy as he handles and cajoles animals into submission, we cut to the present day and meet the grown man in person. He has become Professor Niyazi (Demirer), head of the veterinary department at an izmir university. He’s a bit of an eccentric who looks more like a Kafkaesque bureaucrat than a friend of the animals. This man is a huge animal lover and an animal rights advocate, yet he doesn’t find much time to do anything else apart from work on Kudrettin, his formula to “enhance” the strength and performance of animals. It’s a bit of a conflict really, being a friend to our furry friends and also acting like the cousin of mad scientist Dr. Moreau, but this is Turkey, the land of the oxymoron and ironies, so we are urged to believe that Niyazi is on the right side of morality.

While Niyazi and his sidekick/house cleaner Hediye (iebnem Bozoklu) haplessly experiment on their poor hamsters to complete the formula, uber-rich lady Sultan (Demet Akbai joyously channeling her own version of Cruella Deville is searching for a way to defeat her arch nemesis/love interest/mafia-boss Riza (Levent ulgen displaying a revisionist mock performance of Yeiilcam romantic leads) for the upcoming Ege horse races. Sultan wants her horse to defeat Riza’s, and she’ll do anything for victory in this love-hate relationship which clearly treads in Douglas Sirk territory.

Sultan decides to exploit Niyazi’s unfinished formula for the job and gives her best effort to manipulate the good doctor. But all goes wrong, for Niyazi catches her drift, and he finds himself in a blackmail situation caught between the Boss-lady and the Boss-man. The first hour of the film drags on and on, despite great performances all around and an unforgettably hilarious joke about a chameleon, then luckily the final act comes about with an unexpected plot twist concerning the accidental vaccination of the wrong person. In this final act, Demirer infuses his wit and his deep capacity for physical comedy which comprises an unexpectedly graceful and controlled use of his larger-than-life body. Honestly, the guy moves like a smooth feline out of the plains of Africa.

Of course is fine and dandy at the end, even though a couple of hamsters die and a raging horse is set loose in the streets of izmir. In the ending credits, it was indeed a relief to see the sentence: “No animals were harmed during the making of this film.” Still, I can’t help but wonder whether this film will instill any kind of love or respect for animals despite its didactic dialogues, in which Niyazi berates several characters for mistreating animals.

This film could have been a lot more intense and interesting if it had taken more time to dwell on issues such as the different kinds of relationships between humans and animals, ranging from anthropomorphism to exploitation of animals for corporate profit. In a country where street animals and farm animals are a huge part of our daily ecosystem in the city and the provinces, “Niyazi Gul” could have tried to push more buttons and transformed itself into a film with more gumption.

Obviously, I’m not expecting something like Bresson’s “Au Hazard Balthazar,” but even something along the lines of “Ace Ventura” would have done.

Nevertheless, considering that the spotlight is on a humanoid performed by Demirer, the film still manages to deliver.