Özcan Alper “Autumn”: Film Review
Özcan Alper is one of the very few Turkish film directors who has risen acute issues of the Turkish reality acting delicately and with a taste. As an Armenian of Hamshen origin, he addresses usually silenced cross-national problems within Turkey.
You can see dark vaults of jail bars which deter the onslaught of freedom fighters of Turkey. Yusuf is walking out of one of them. They are taking him to the prison hospital. A deep breath. Here is the doctor’s note: “There is nothing left of your lungs”. Then a road is emerging in the picture; Yusuf is allowed to return home.
The road is sunk in the same gloom, but for right now it is accompanied by nature. It seems like the nature is feeling subtly the hero’s state of mind and is swarming all around his image by a veil of mystery. Then, what will happen there, at home…
Yusuf’s home is a small picturesque village at the Black Sea shore. The small houses seem to be scattered around the green mountain slopes which are shrouded in a thick blanket of fog. A red minibus is moving along the shore. Here He is, at the bus doors. The old mongrel dog, sitting on the porch, is still keeping his head down instead of meeting him. The door opens.
An oil painting is in front of us; an elderly mother is sitting alone next to the window and is looking far ahead. There is a stove burning in the middle of the room. It seems like she also does not notice him. “Mom”- Yusuf is calling. She is standing up immediately and putting her arms around his neck. It is ten years since she has not seen her son.
Nothing has changed in the native lands but at the same time the transience of life has not passed by this quiet corner. They will tell Yusuf that his father died when he was in jail, while his sister got married in another town. Tranquil friends are still the same, but He is different.
Everything has irrevocably changed. From time to time images of the jail come to Yusuf’s mind, he does have nightmares in the nights, however, he continues to keep all that locked inside like he keeps his illness in secret and only sometimes allows himself to show weakness; he takes a car, runs away up in the mountains and utters a loud and piercing cry which was ready to leave all the time but was locked up like the hero was.
This nature… Nobody can remain indifferent. It contains a lot of guesses. Expressive mountain slopes, changing weather, shrinking autumn. The protagonist is a part of this, he is a link in the chain, he tries to absorb the energy from the mountain air, remaining shrouded in snow - he tries to awaken…
Yusuf’s elderly mother is the sole lighthouse for him now. She is the embodiment of an ancient civilization, she keeps up old traditions, speaks only ancient Armenian which she managed to preserve even in a Turkic-speaking environment. You can feel this woman’s persistence which has passed on to her son, to the fighter for socialist views and equality: the values for which he had to go down.
Only memories and photographs of younger years have remained from the former fiery socialist. The lifeless expression on his face pursues the viewer from the beginning and hope appears that there is still something that will make him live a bit.
The hope is justified. You can see Yusuf’s concerned glance at a young Georgian girl Eka (a lost girl like him) who has to work as a prostitute to earn money. Will these lost souls succeed in becoming lovers? They just dare be simply happy.
The film itself is laced with the consequences left to people by the disastrous state power which can destroy everything living in the people. The love story is accompanied by the unquiet Black sea which clearly shows the heroes’ mental state. There is no need for any words or long dialogues.
The whole film is accompanied by either classical or ethnic music creating a real aesthetic picture of acute socio-political problems existing in Turkey.
Winter has come. Mother is sitting in the chair: “Yusuf, play a bit more please…” Yusuf presses his lips to the bagpipe - traditional musical instrument of Hamshen Armenians - and you hear sweet tunes. To the tune of this melody you can see а string of people in the window carrying a lifeless body down the mountain…