Thursday, August 5, 2010

In short: Cellat (1975)

aka Turkish Death Wish

aka The Executioner

Orhan is a moustachioed, mild-mannered and civic-minded architect who loves his wife, his sister and holding speeches about the "animals" who commit violent crimes. His mild-manneredness turns into the full-out psychopathy his speeches already promised when a trio of dope fiend hippies rape his wife and his sister, killing the wife in the proceeding and driving his sister into an incurable, near-catatonic state.

When the police doesn't find the killers, Orhan gets a bit miffed and begins to roam the streets at night, randomly attacking criminals. The "attacking" turns into "murdering" after an acquaintance makes him the most typical of gifts, a handgun. Now a full-grown serial killer, and prone to short, yet self-righteous speeches at the grave of his wife, Orhan continues his killing spree.

For once, a Turkish variation on a US movie known as "Turkish whatever" does in fact keep quite close to the tone and structure of the original its ripping-off. That's rather unfortunate, seeing that the original Death Wish isn't a movie that contains much worthy of being ripped off. Sure, it's important for the development of the vigilante movie (however dubious an achievement one might find this to be), but it's just not a very good (or entertaining, or shocking) movie.

Alas, Cellat isn't any better than Death Wish. It even copies the main problem the Winner-directed film has - the fact that it wants its audience to identify with the vigilantism of its main character, but does everything in its power to make him completely abhorrent. The main problem is that we're supposed to identify with Orhan as a near-mythical angel of vengeance figure although he doesn't actively try to take vengeance on the guys who actually killed his wife or does anything to try and find them until they are dropped in his lap, and instead goes around killing random criminals (some of them in fact much less violent than he is) who have nothing to do with his personal story. That makes him just another psychopath, and hardly worthy of audience-identification.

A more clever film could probably milk Orhan's dubious motives quite well, for example putting the nature of vengeance itself in question, or picturing Orhan's slow loss of sanity and humanity, but Cellat certainly isn't that film.

But even if I'd be able to ignore the film's unpleasant politics (which are of course par for the course in this sub-genre), I don't think the rest of the film is worth the effort. Very atypical for the speed-fuelled Turkish popular cinema, Cellat's action scenes are neither insane nor intense, but mostly consist of Orhan standing around stiffly and shooting some guy armed with a knife; rinse and repeat for a dozen or so victims. It's about as interesting to watch as it sounds.

It does however fit the slow pacing and lack of dynamics the whole film suffers from (come to think of it, a problem I had with the original Death Wish, too) perfectly, making Cellat one of the few Turkish pop movies I have seen that can be called slow and boring.


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