"Night of Silence"

in 25th Panorama of European Cinema

by Nestoras Poulakos

Night of Silence (La Gece), the FIPRESCI winner at the Panorama of European Cinema festival in Athens, is a drama which takes place in a single room. The room has clear socio-political implications, serving as a prism for a small village in the middle of Turkey and reflecting the manners, customs, traditions, and in general the culture of people and the overall temperament of the human geography of the region. 

Reis Çelik attempts in his third fiction film to show the wear and the oppression of human temperament, as he takes orders from unwritten rules and the explicit conditions of bygone eras that have gone for good.

Watching Night of Silence through its 90 minutes, moment to moment, the climax of the drama proves sufficiently shocking and heartbreaking. A middle-aged man (over 50 years) has just been released from prison for the second time and has undergone an arranged marriage to an underage girl who has barely lived her teenage, youthful years. The film plays out on the wedding night, where the newly married couple must sleep together for the first time, making love, so that at daybreak, according to Turkish tradition, the groom can stretch the sheet with the blood of the virgin bride outdoors, and shoot into the air.

These elements for the couple are finally their oppression. As the film progresses, both the pressure and the explosion are overflowing. Essentially it is a marriage that was against the will of both sides, and a life that was forcefully requisitioned. The groom is a repressed man who lived a life of always doing what he was called to do by his mother, his uncle and generally his family. The esteem of family is what led him to prison twice. Indeed, in a revelation of the story, he reveals that he killed his mother, because it is suggested that she dishonored and offended them.

For this particular little girl, this marriage is the tombstone for the later obviously great life that lies ahead. Her parents imposed this marriage mainly for reasons of social custom, but also economic ones. The girl never asked for this option, but they dressed her, embellished her, painted on her, loading a dowry and sent her to live with a much older man, whom she does not love, does not even know, and the man it’s evident does not want this love either. It is a marriage of interest to unite families and avoid future conflicts and vendettas.

Reis Çelik imposes exceptional aesthetic design and direction – I can call it a hustle – over the conflict caused by social tradition in a small Turkish village. The study of the durability of customs and how they oppress the modern human avoids any kind of cliché. It is a deeply human story, enclosed for a whole night in a traditional house in Turkey, with a tragic morning stretching out at the end. The camera comes out of the house and shows a panoramic view of the area, the clear sky in the morning, with the village women wearing headscarves, protecting the home of the newlyweds. The shot that sounds is definitely not the result of the first night of the marriage but the ultimate solution to the drama of the two heroes, in one way or another. The unexpected end that Reis Çelik gives us exacerbates the tragedy of the story.

Edited by Carmen Gray