Saturday, October 23, 2010

In short: Ölüler Konusmaz Ki (1970)

aka Ölüler Konusmazki

aka The Dead Don't Talk

A young couple has come into a Turkish small-town for some unexplained "business". A carriage driver who likes to mention that it is the 15th of the month and he has to be home before dark a bit too often for comfort drives them to a guest house. It's one of those creepy gothic affairs, with doors that open and close without human influence, and a warm meal for the right amount of persons already ready on the table. A bit later, a rather creepy guy appears and delights everyone with slow movements and not the least bit suspicious glances at the lady of the couple. Later on, Creepy Guy (who is named Hasan, it seems) shows the lady what he loves - a painting of a woman in front of which he proceeds to have a break-down, because beautiful women always leave him.

Despite everything, the couple still decides to stay the night at the place. Not surprisingly, that's not a good idea. A dead guy wearing a hat and a trenchcoat arrives, opens his mouth very wide, laughs a lot, and kills the couple. Then follow a few random scenes of further killing and laughing. In between, a guy with a moustache (we will later learn that he is the headmaster of the local school) has heart problems.

Then, something comprehensible happens! Sema, the new school teacher arrives in town. The poor girl's new living quarters are of course in Hasan's house, and she is of course the new main goal of the dead joker's killing aspirations, but Sema turns out to be more resolute and resistant than anybody could have expected.

Turkey is still my go-to country when it comes to films that are at once frighteningly simple and utterly confusing. For most of Ölüler's running time, I didn't have much of a clue what was going on, despite the film being subtitled. Obviously, I was able to follow the part about a dead man walking around and killing people (and I even managed to understand his connection with the headmaster at a later point) while laughing a lot (and I mean a lot), but the why and wherefore and who of most everyone and everything in it was disturbingly unclear.

The film has the sort of disorienting effect that might be meant to simulate the experience of a combination of culture shock, jet lag and a dead guy laughing extensively in a viewer. Or Ölüler might be an avantgardist masterpiece. Or it might just be that writer/director Yavuz Yalinkilic's style is just completely confusing out of incompetence and/or a lack of funds.

In the end, it doesn't matter much, because this is a film about a dead guy laughing (did I mention that he laughs a lot?) and killing people, a classical folkloristic Turkish monster, screaming women, disturbed editing - in short, it's exactly what one would expect a Turkish pop/pulp cinema horror film to be, with nothing to disturb the pure experience of a horror movie pared down to some of its absolute basics. From time to time, the film is even effectively disquieting, mostly through scenes of the dead guy rubbing himself against a window, and the neverending laughter that annoys until it can't annoy anymore, but becomes uniquely unpleasant, like a dead and rotting thing dangling hypnotically before your eyes.

If you are inexperienced with the unique Turkish approach to filmmaking you will probably be better served with watching something less grating first, but if you've already developed the taste, this will mess you up pretty good.

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