‘Son Mektup’: patriotism vs. patriotism

Let’s be frank: The amount of money poured into writer-director-producer zhan Eren’s new film “Son Mektup” (The Last Letter) — a hefty TL 1,750,000 — from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s cinema fund (the most financial support granted to any film by the ministry to date) did not go to waste in this even-tempered patriotic and cinematic adaptation of the Battle of anakkale in World War I Of all the Turkish films that have dwelled on the subject,

Let’s be frank: The amount of money poured into writer-director-producer andOumlzhan Eren’s new film “Son Mektup” (The Last Letter) — a hefty TL 1,750,000 — from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s cinema fund (the most financial support granted to any film by the ministry to date) did not go to waste in this even-tempered patriotic and cinematic adaptation of the Battle of andCcedilanakkale in World War I

Of all the Turkish films that have dwelled on the subject, “Son Mektup” is almost on par in terms of production value and ideological moderation with Russell Crowe’s Turkish co-produced “The Water Diviner”

Is it a great film about war that brings out an enlightening truth about the human condition that will land a place in world cinema history? Probably not, since this film is specifically designed for the Turkish audience in order to stroke and embellish their feelings of patriotism and the importance of sacrifice for national independence, without ever really questioning the horror and destitution of war

But should we really expect such a notion from a film that was distributed on March 18, the 100th anniversary of Turkey’s victory at andCcedilanakkale? I suppose not, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Despite the film’s clear intent to speak to collective emotions of national pride and primacy, at least “Son Mektup” tries its best not to take a vindictive stance about the enemy powers of the period.

A war is a war, and even the character of a Turkish general comments on the deceased English soldiers on a warship that has just been bombed, “Such a waste, all these lives lost on foreign soil, all the families that have lost their loved ones.” After a film such as “Fetih 1453,” which saw no problem with incriminating the Byzantine culture, this is a huge step for Turkish filmmakers endeavoring to produce films leaning on militarism

World War I is continuing as Turkish troops are called for battle on the andCcedilanakkale peninsula, where Her Majesty’s warships have docked in the outer limits of the bay.

One such enlisted soldier is pilot Salih Ekrem (Tansel andOumlngel), who is assigned to fly the only propeller plane in the Ottoman army. He is welcomed by all at the base, as he prepares for the oncoming battle.

In parallel, volunteer nurse Nihal (rising star Nesrin Cavadzade, who gave a stellar performance in KutluI Ataman’s “Kuzu”) has arrived to work in the base hospital. Romantic tension begins between the two, but all interactions are chaste and harmless, with the full intention of highlighting their love for their country as opposed to their growing love for each other Such is the trap of such a film which chooses not to dwell in realistic and juicy emotions.

I can’t help but recall “The English Patient,” a completely opposite film in point of view, in which the plain love for close ones superseded the grand ideology of nations and borders.

As Salih Ekrem and Nihal slowly develop their naive rapport, the andCcedilanakkale battles begin in full form, and the filmmakers prioritize showing us the military strategies executed in order to gain ground.

Some of the strategies are truly ingenious, and performed with finesse by generals and soldiers who are fully aware of the gravity of their duties, but all the while missing home and their families. We are shown two soldiers — both having newly received news of the birth of their children — become casualties of war The emphasis on this specific familial situation is clearly to point out the sacrifice of the many soldiers who lost their lives for the greater good.

This is not at all a problem, and the way these side stories unfold are not exploitative however, if the screenplay had at least reserved more screen time to establish these characters, we wouldn’t have thought that they are only mainly present to serve the function of satisfying philosophical statements.

The battle sequences are shot very well and are notably the result of the crafty lens of cinematographer UIur Iandccedilbak, who slides and frames his camera organically, according to the movements of Salih Ekrem’s small plane.

Production values are very high, and these action sequences are convincing. Blood is kept to a minimum in order to prevent discomfort for the younger audience.

The finale of the film follows the enfolding of Salih Ekrem and Nihal’s relationship, and takes on a melodramatic yet simultaneously stifled closure in the light of an important letter that the pilot entrusts to the nurse. Years later, this letter will have even greater importance, on a personal and patriotic level — this sequence sadly seems a tad too forced and counterbalances the film’s struggle for cinematic moderation.

Nevertheless, “Son Mektup” is one of the better efforts of the war-film genre and is not a film that strong-arms the audience to jingoism It deserves a small peek.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman