You’ve all seen the adverts. Always shown during dinner time to make you physically ill, the bright eyes of young girls pleading “Don’t make me do this”, teenagers in bridal gowns, asking to give £5 a month to save this girl from her terrible fate – marriage.
No one has addressed the other side of this age-old story – the groom’s attitude – until now.
Known for his artistic views on modern day issues, Reis Celik is releasing his fifth feature film. This one addresses arranged marriage in Turkey.
Once the colourful traditions and rituals are over with, the new couple get down to business. Scared and shy fourteen year old Gelin (Dilan Aksut) duly proceeds with the ceremony, keeping her face hidden under a veil not quite thick enough for the guests to ignore her tears. Meanwhile, returning home after doing two rounds of hard time in prison, sixty year old Damat (Ilyas Salman) finds his new bride waiting for him and is soon seen to be just as nervous as the child.
And so they talk, aware that their marriage is simply to orchestrate the end of the gang war. Damat is trying to make his bride comfortable enough to do what they came to do and Gelin making up as many excuses as she can not to…
Lal Gere is a film that makes you pay attention. For such a bold subject, there is very little happening. You’re looking closely for something to happen, or maybe find some underlying meaning to the dialogue. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any.
Arranged marriage is an ugly subject which – if someone dared to – could make your blood curdle. Reis Celik is apparently not interested in churning blood. The horrors of the bride’s fate are simply hinted at through the long conversation between her and her groom. Of course, the point of scaring is to not put it plainly but there’s a limit. You can’t say nothing with many words. It just comes off as mindless chit-chat. The entire conversation could have been bypassed if the groom had just said “I won’t hurt you” once.
The editing could have aided the conversation. If everything is an underlying message you have to give us a clue otherwise it’s simply dull conversation that anyone can have. Such as a zoom into the guy smiling while he says “I’ll see you again”. You’re looking for the sneer in that smile that isn’t there thanks to the zoom and the long music note tells you it won’t be a happy get-together he’s talking about. It might be done to death but it works and stops you from drifting away from the conversation. With the fly-on-the-wall camera shots you’re simply watching in bemusement and not feeling anything for the characters. The observational feeling might be best for Reis’ many documentaries, but it’s also why no one goes to the cinema to see a documentary.
He does make up for this with the artistic set and costumes. The red of the bride’s veil doesn’t immediately yell “love” due to the situation she’s in, but in fact “blood”, keeping you on the edge. The groom keeps a good hold of his gun despite insisting he won’t use it in yet another lengthy discussion to calm his bride.
One scene is bursting with artistic symbolism. Damat doses off and dreams of wandering the snowy mountains with nothing but a crimson veil following him. The veil eventually leads to a woman who he identifies as “Mother”. Unfortunately no major plot twist, as expected, was revealed. We already know Damat’s past and the guilt he’s carrying (hence the appearance of his mother), the red veil is obvious and the mountains don’t seem to show anything but loneliness. You watch, waiting for something to be revealed, but there isn’t. It all appears a little pointless. The idea of a kid watching, saying “Ooh look at the pretty colours!” comes to mind.
The combination, however, of art and observation might have made a good play. With one main set, two main characters, a lot of dialogue and little else, the film reminds others of high school English. Studying that play that you couldn’t see the point to at the time: nothing happening outright, your teacher insisting there was another meaning you couldn’t hear to the dialogue. Drama students would love it.
Frankly, the ending is the best part. Nothing is getting given away if someone said it ends with a bang. The bang itself isn’t the point but the many questions it leaves – yet another mark of the theatre is to feel utterly confused once the show is over.
What the film need is a point. Every piece of art has to have a point. The obvious point to make would have been the horrors of arranged marriage, but somehow that is lost as the film peters on. Then there is nothing but two people caught in a sticky situation. It’s almost – almost – disrespectful, to take such a bold subject and reduce it to chitchat.
Lal Gere was difficult and required some perseverance, but it’s worth it for the ending. If it was a bit more intense it won’t feel like such of a drag. A little bit more of anything – plot, symbolism, action, etc. – would have gone a long way.
1 out 5
Film’s Title: Night Of Silence (Lal Gece)
UK Release date: 28 June 2013
UK Distributor: Drakes Avenue Pictures
Running Time: 91mins
Director(s) Name: Reis Celik
Main Actors Names: Ilyas Salman, Dilan Aksut
Countries of Production: Turkey
Rating: 1 out of 5
Year Of Production: 2012
Original Language(s): Turkish
English Translation: Subtitles
Subgenres: Art House, Period,
Writer’s Credit: Laura Maxwell