Thursday, September 17, 2009

Köprüdekiler (Men on the Bridge)

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: Men on the Bridge, directed by Asli Özge

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

What if you lived in the most colourful city in the world and never managed to tap into that bustling charm, which is obvious to everyone else yet somehow unattainable to you? Blending glimmering sunsets with urban decay, Istanbul can be an especially heartbreaking place to live when happiness constantly seems out of reach.

Faced with such crushing contradictions, Asli Özge originally intended to reveal these different aspects of her hometown in documentary format. Yet somewhere along the line, the project began to shift toward fiction. Using her original subjects, Özge scripted their lives to match her inspiration, casting each person in their own life story. In other words, Men on the Bridge is as true to life as fiction can possibly get.

Setting up shop on the Bosphorus Bridge, halfway between Europe and Asia, Özge focuses on despair. Murat (Murat Tokgöz), a small-town traffic cop on a recent transfer, spends his days squeezed among millions of cars, dreaming of love. Umut (Umut Ilker), two years into an unhappy marriage, drives a shared taxi, distracted and resigned, while his demanding wife craves luxury. Fikret (Fikret Portakal), raised on the streets with no education to speak of, sells roses in a near-endless river of traffic and fantasizes about a better life. The hopes and dreams of these men intersect on a daily basis in the Bosphorus Bridge rush hour, along with myriads of anonymous drivers honking their way into oblivion. Tucked away in different pockets of the city, the three protagonists alternately compete for the viewers' attention, unaware that the most important character is the ground they stand upon.

While by no means attempting to restore the Turkish city to its former glory, Özge allows occasional glimpses of accidental beauty that can't help but conjure up visions of a fairy-tale past. Stuck between the gutter and the stars, Istanbul is like a beautiful woman who's fallen from grace, and the film is about every man who fell with her.

The film's website is here.

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