BLISS (Abdullah Oguz, 2007)

One certainly hopes that Mutluluk has its heart in the right place, but this breezy romantic adventure, with glib asides, about a traditionally required honor killing in an East Turkey village trivializes the matter at hand. Agonizingly slow-paced, clumsy and silly, the film, from Turkey and Greece, is based on the novel by Zülfü Livaneli.
     Meryem, 17, is raped; the film opens right after this event. So far, so good. For the shame she has thus brought upon her family and village, presumably because she is seen as having enticed someone to commit this act by her powerful allure, she will be taken to Istanbul and executed. The mission is entrusted to Cemal, a young ex-soldier and son of the village leader, whom he is honor-bound to obey; but falling in love with Meryem, the boy is torn between doing his duty, that is, what he has been taught is “right,” and fleeing with the girl of his dreams.
     Shades of Huck Finn (“Then I’ll go to Hell!”). But these quickly and painlessly dissolve as the film possesses neither a moral basis nor moral depth. The rapist’s identity, revealed late, helps consign the crime—an innocent girl’s rape—to an Agatha Christie confection; I lost all patience that a human being’s fate would be sidelined for an idiotic melodrama of patriarchal cover-up. Is the film’s real target, then, abuse of power? Beyond the convenience of a coyly handled revelation of individual villainy, why does male bias keep normal family feelings from kicking in? Is the retention of male power the sum of why Turkish fathers (apparently) hate their daughters?
     The film’s most odious character, for me, is Irfan, the sexless professorial “good father” who is supposed to make up for the “bad fathers” conspiring against Meryem.

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