Sad Realities under the Mediterranean Sun

in 27th Istanbul International Film Festival

by Necla Algan

Young director Seyfi Teoman’s first full-length film Summer Book (Tatil kitabi), which won the FIPRESCI award in the national competition of the 27th Istanbul International Film Festival, can be considered as a brilliant example of a successful rural movie. The rural genre in Turkish cinema appeared more as a reaction to the confusion provoked by the rapid urbanization and social reconstruction which commenced in the 1980s. The pay-back for our past, or the remembrance of it, a past very close but for a long time ignored, is the true mission of this tendency. This means that this tendency is not an escape from this past or just a simple coincidence. On the other hand, we very well know that these stories are quite universal and familiar all over the world.

Summer Book’s story takes place in Silifke, a very old settlement along the Mediterranean coast of Southern Anatolia. The movie explores the melancholic, silent and suppressed family members’ lives throughout a summer in this small town. The spectator is quietly drawn into the film’s universe through the adventures of the main protagonist, ten-year old Ali and the lives of his family and friends. The movie, exploring the quiet and slow flow of the quotidian life advances by Ali’s brother Veysel’s decision to leave his studies in military school in Istanbul and the disappointment Veysel feels by his family’s opposition to this decision.

Mustafa, the father obstinately sticks to his own moral code that he insists to impose with no possible negotiation. It is both surprising and welcome to see such a young director deal with the roles within the Turkish family’s traditional structure, the paternal figure’s conservative, distanced and commanding character.

Sentenced to the closed circle of domestic life, complaining about her husband’s lack of affection and care, the mother figure who even suspects her husband of being involved in an affair is another interesting side of this movie. The authoritarian father alongside the soft and tender mother figures mostly reflects Turkey’s social reality. In one of the scenes, the father accuses his wife of distancing him away from his own children because, actually, the father loves his sons, indeed in his own way, and simply tries to educate them with his own values.

Ali promises his bed-ridden father that he has been doing everything in his life that is expected and that he would also act this way in the future. In that way, he tries to demonstrate his love for his father. On the other hand, Ali is living through the first big traumas of his lifetime: He is being forced to work by his father and is subject to his friend’s cruel atrocities. Dreaming about being lost in his summer book’s pages lying under the Mediterranean sun, his friends forcibly take his book from him and he returns back to school after a sad summer holiday.

The other characters in the movie are subjected to similar disappointment; unable to change destiny by breaking away from their own realities. Ali’s idealistic Uncle Hasan, who tried once to break away with this vicious circle but who then had to return back a defeated figure, exemplifies this. But these life experiences, as we all know, are our own experiences. We are all familiar with these traumas. Therefore, the story is valid not only for an isolated little town in distant Anatolia but in all the metropolis and countries of the world. We all try to exist and move within our lives bounded by certain webs of the relationships surrounding us.

In Summer Book, the director tells his story with a quiet and simple style, without any dramatization and even without using music. All of these formal approaches demonstrate the director’s faith to the power of his style and the impressiveness of his story.