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European-American Topics - Cinema - Bliss

SIFF 2008: Bliss (Turkish title: Mutluluk)
Turkey 2007
Review by Asli Omur
Posted June 11, 2008


     Ignorance is not always blissful. Desolation, sadness and psychedelic dream sequences riddle this film. The cinematography is comparable to a previous SIFF entry, Takva: a Mans Fear of God. Bliss is originally a book written by Turkish composer and writer, Zülfü Livaneli. Bliss made the New York Times bestseller list before its entry in the Seattle International Film Festival. It was a popular read in Turkey as well.

centers around a young Turkish girl in eastern Turkey who has been raped and has been blamed for it by some in her tiny village. The village agha or spiritual civil leader tells the father he must perform an archaic tradition of honor killing in order to cleanse the family name of her transgression. An act the father is hesitant of but later complies with.

     Özgü Namal plays the disheveled and yet resilient Meryem. Meryem is adamant of her innocence, but never divulges the name of her attacker until one fateful day. Her grandmother, whom she affectionately calls, Bibi, believes she was raped and tries to coax the name out of her to alert the authorities. She refuses, instead in her madwoman like trance she questions why she can no longer hear the roosters crowing in her garden. Meryem’s mother passed away at her birth and she is left to her stepmothers’ violent and chiding behavior. Her devious stepmother believes she engaged in pre-marriage coital relations and keeps her in the shed, even providing her with rope to commit suicide. Meryem almost goes through with it until she sees her stepmother waiting for her to die. Her resistance to commit suicide is just the beginning of her desire to cleanse violent retribution from her traditional upbringing. After her refusal to commit suicide the village elders decide to send her elsewhere before the police get involved with the case.

     She thinks she is going to
Istanbul to be married off to an interested groom with the help of her distant cousin Cemal, until she is asked to throw herself from a bridge or be shot. These customs are incomprehensible to the Istanbullites they encounter along the journey. Unexpected romance, mid-life crisis, disgrace, revenge and an escape from cruel traditions bring this film and young Meryem closure.

is timely and provocative. It is a stellar and triumphant film because it does not vilify all of Turkish people, play the blame game or even point fingers. Instead Bliss is compassionate and revives the image and circumstances of the women of eastern Turkey that are rarely seen in global cinema.


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