Majority -- Film Review

A strong dramatic condemnation of men, with a veiled condemnation of a nation as a whole – or at least its majority.

ANTALYA, TURKEY -- If men are not born as listless, stupid brutes, they are turned into such abominable creatures by their fathers, while the women in their lives, be it mothers, wives or girlfriends, play their part by standing aside and letting it happen. That’s at least what Seren Yuce’s “Majority” suggests by telling the story of young slacker in Istanbul whose feeble efforts at becoming a human being meet with the fate such a half-assed effort deserves. The film, which won first feature awards in Venice and Mumbai, as well as three Golden Orange Awards (Turkey’s Oscars), can also be seen as a veiled indictment of Turkey’s not-so-silent majority as a whole.

Commercial prospects on the arthouse-circuit should not necessarily be limited to countries or cities with sizable Turkish expatriate-communities, even though “Majority’s” dour, oppressive atmosphere will be tough to overcome.

The film centers on Mertkan, the son of a contractor. The lad does not seem to be all too interested in anything. Supported by his father, who wants him to take over the family business, he does not study, professes to never having read a book in his life, and only after the persistent lobbying by a smitten waitress, Gul, does he enter into a relationship with her. If there’s anything consistent about him, it’s that he’ll always take the way of least resistance. When his father rejects Gul for being Kurdish (amongst other things), he does just that.

Director Yuce, who is a protégé of German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, tells this story somberly and effortlessly, treating even the most emotional moments casually. Instead of being a weakness, this approach turns out to be the strength of the film, making us root so much more for Mertkan to evolve and take a stand – if not for himself, but then at least for the little bit of humanity he seems to have left.

Yuce lets the political nature emerge in incidents big and small. Even though Gul is never referred to as Kurdish, her heritage is identified by the slur “gypsy” and her city of birth. Corruption enters the fray when Mertkan drunkenly gets into a car accident and the victim – a poor cabdriver – is later ridiculed and humiliated by his father, who promptly pays off the police.

The role of women in society is basically nil: even Gul, who fled to Istanbul to study and live an independent life, does not have the confidence to stand up for herself: In the end, all she wants is a man she could love and marry; that Mertkan is not all that into her is a fact she conveniently ignores.

So “Majority” is clearly more than a Turkish slacker-film or a condemnation of men. Its persistently oppressive tone speaks for itself.

Performances are all high caliber down to the smallest part, but Bartu Kucukcaglayan as Mertkan clearly stands out. He gains our sympathy for a character who clearly does not deserve it, is unlikely to change and will surely end up being just like his father or worse. He does that without getting any help from the script: There is no moment of redemption. Even the hint of Mertkan possibly having a spine, a sense of fairness, or an ability to love come in moments of inaction. It’s an indelible performance against all odds.

Camerawork by Baris Ozbicer is dull though competent. Gokce Akcelik’s score, which is more a persistent hum, serves the film well. 

Production companies: Yeni Sinemacilik
Cast: Bartu Kucukcaglayan, Settar Tanriogen, Nihal Koldas, Esme Madra, Erkan Can, Ilhan Hacifazlioglu
Director/screenwriter: Seren Yuce
Producers: Sevil Demirci, Onder Cakar, Seren Yuce
Executive producer: Ozkan Y?lmaz
Director of photography: Baris Ozbicer
Production designer: Merel Efe
Music: Gokce Akcelik
Editor: Mary Stephen
No rating, 110 minutes