Seren Yüce unveils the herds of patriarchy in Ço?unluk

EM?NE YILDIRIM 
?STANBUL
 Seren Yüce unveils the herds of patriarchy in Ço?unluk - Seren  Yüce’s Alt?n Portakal-winning debut feature “Ço?unluk” (The Majority) is  a hard slap in the face -- a well-deserved and succinct one that  reminds us of the macro social realities of Turkish society through the  microcosm of one young man.
Seren Yüce’s Alt?n Portakal-winning debut feature “Ço?unluk” (The Majority) is a hard slap in the face — a well-deserved and succinct one that reminds us of the macro social realities of Turkish society through the microcosm of one young man.
It’s not surprising that the film has been brought to the screen by the film production collective Yeni Sinemac?lar (New Cineastes), a group of filmmakers who have never been afraid of questioning — and exposing — the hypocrisies of the various socio-cultural and economically prevalent circumstances in Turkey. Take for example “Gemide” (Onboard) directed by Serdar Akar and “Takva” (A Man’s Fear of God) by Özer K?z?ltan.
Mertkan (played by Bartu Küçükça?layan, whose portrayal won him the best actor prize at last week’s Alt?n Portakal film festival) could be the epitome of the Turkish middle-class young man: loves football, stays away from books except for the encyclopedias on his bookshelf that he probably acquired with newspaper coupons, enjoys cruising in the car while blasting techno accompanied by his male buddies (all with the same gelled hairstyle) and has no meaningful communication with women save for his mother (for women are nothing but objects).
Of course, the indisputable head of Mertkan’s family is his father — a fat cat contractor with dubious business ethics or any other ethics that do not lead to a profit. Oh but of course, he goes to the mosque and prays like a good Muslim.
Mertkan is perhaps a bit confused in this machismo-filled environment, carrying with him a shred of skepticism, but nevertheless he is infused with false patriotism rooted in jingoism. We first see him as a young child, bullying the house cleaner out of sheer antagonism for her poverty-stricken, victimized existence. His father (the brilliant Settar Tanr?ö?en) is his example.
But things might just change for the dispassionate Mertkan when he meets Gül (Esme Madra), a girl with Kurdish roots who works at the bistro near his house. She is enamored of him, while his initial intentions are that of any young guy with raging hormones. They eventually embark on an unsophisticated romance (the naïve absurdity of their inexperience is welcoming), which results in a whole lot of trouble for Mertkan. His friends and family adamantly disapprove of the girl, especially his father, who blathers on about how “her people” are set out to divide the country. And as the film’s title so concisely states, Mertkan is a typical example of the “majority” that will cause him to transform from a disillusioned boy into a prejudiced, self-righteous brute of a man, i.e., the mirror-image of his father.
This story doesn’t just showcase the dominance of a particular social class; it reflects how patriarchal misogyny is an integral part of our society. Director Yüce shows us how the men around Mertkan treat and talk about women while in the sauna, in the home, in cafes and in the car. Public space is the playground for men who set out to impose, exploit and rule. Democracy, the expression of different views, is out of the question. And yet the most powerful scene comes from the view of a woman: we see Mertkan’s mother sitting by herself alone in the kitchen whispering to her son, “How did I raise such children, how did I end up among such insensitive men?” Her tears are a punch to the stomach.
Taking strength from his well-timed and realistic script, Yüce’s direction is almost flawless, showing us slowly but surely the development of Gül and Mertkan’s faltering relationship and, most importantly, Mertkan’s metamorphosis. Yüce provides insight into his psyche but never shows the kind of intimacy that approves of his cowardice or pseudo-aspirations of manhood.
“The Majority” is one of the best Turkish films of the year. With its impeccable narration and no-nonsense style it exposes a harsh social reality that we prefer to dismiss — it’s just always easier and more comfortable to be a part of the largest and strongest herd.


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