Breath (2009 film)

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Breath
Nefes film poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Levent Semerci
Produced by Levent Semerci
Murat Akdilek
Written by Hakan Evrensel
Mehmet İlker Altınay
Levent Semerci
Starring Mete Horozoğlu
Birce Akalay
İlker Kızmaz
Music by Fırat Yükselir
Production
company
Fida Film
Creavidi
Distributed by Medyavizyon
Maxximum Film und Kunst
Release date
  • October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16)
Running time
120 minutes
Country Turkey
Language Turkish
Budget $2 million
Box office $14,727,335

Breath (Turkish: Nefes: Vatan Sağolsun, literally Breath: Long Live the Homeland) is a 2009 Turkish drama film directed by Levent Semerci. The film, which tells the story of 40 soldiers in charge of protecting a relay station near the Iraqi border in southeastern Turkey, was adapted from the short stories Tales from the Southeast and Ground Minus Zero by Hakan Evrensel and is, according to Hürriyet Daily News reviewer Emine Yıldırım, the first Turkish film that tackles, through an authentic perspective and convincing realness, the contemporary situation of the Turkish army and its long battle with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) .[1][2][3][4][5]

The film, according to Today's Zaman, sparked a growing discussion on whether it includes militaristic and nationalist elements or whether it is merely aiming to show the deadly and difficult conditions soldiers face in the vast mountainous terrain of southeastern Anatolia, fighting against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. Critics such as columnists Emre Aköz and Nedim Hazar pointed out that writer Hakan Evrensel, upon whose works the film was based, had worked at the public relations department of the National Security Council (MGK) when the terrorist activities were at their peak and claimed the film fails to be impartial and objective in indicating the genuine motives of the terrorists fighting in the mountains.[6][7]

The film went on general release across Turkey on October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16) and won two awards at the 3rd Yeşilçam Awards as well as being one of the highest grossing films of 2009, prompting its re-release on July 23, 2010 (2010-07-23).[8][9][10][11]

Production[edit]

The film was shot on location in Istanbul and Antalya, Turkey.[12]

Plot[edit]

This film is about a small unit of 40 Turkish soldiers in a remote patrol station in eastern Turkey, in a state of near certain death, during the most violent times, in the conflict between the Turkish Army and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Release[edit]

General Release[edit]

Thanks to cleverly edited teasers that barely gave any clue to the movie, a constant delay of the release date over the last six months and a nation overly sensitive to war, civil-military relations and nationalism, Emrah Güller, writing in the Hürriyet Daily News, states, Heated debates preceded the release of director Levent Semerci’s war drama “Nefes” (Breath) in chat rooms, Web forums, Facebook groups and mass media. Ironically, he concedes, the release of advertisement director Semerci’s debut film put a halt to many of the discussions because the audience had a hard time pinning down the message of the movie and labeling it as positive or negative propaganda for the military. The unprecedented success of “Nefes” lies in its ability to put a stop to all desperate attempts to maneuver the film into a nationalistic or anti-military stance, Güller concludes.[13]

The film opened in 608 screens across Turkey on October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16) at number one in the Turkish box office chart with an opening weekend gross of US$2,018,862. Some, according to Today's Zaman journalist Mınhac Çelık, argue the timing of the highly publicized film’s release is critical because it comes almost simultaneously with the return of a small group of PKK members from neighboring Iraq who surrendered to Turkish authorities.[6][14]

The film opened across Germany on October 22, 2009 (2009-10-22) and across Austria on October 23, 2009 (2009-10-23). It later re-opened in 106 screens across Turkey on July 23, 2010 (2010-07-23) at number ten in the Turkish box office chart with an opening weekend gross of US$7,569.[14]

Opening weekend gross
Date Territory Screens Rank Gross
October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16) Turkey 608 1 US$2,018,862
October 22, 2009 (2009-10-22) Germany 65 16 US$259,166
October 23, 2009 (2009-10-23) Austria 8 13 US$38,786
July 23, 2010 (2010-07-23) Turkey (re-release) 106 10 US$7,569

Festival screenings[edit]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The movie was number one at the Turkish box office for four weeks running and is the second highest grossing Turkish film of the year with a total worldwide gross of $14,727,335.[14]

Reviews[edit]

Radikal executive editor İsmet Berkan, who considered the film a masterpiece with its realist characteristics, wrote, I can claim that it is the most beautiful and meaningful Turkish movie I have ever watched. It is a real masterpiece with its perfect technical and aesthetic aspects as well as its theme. The film displays the naked realities of the war. … Thank you, Levent Semerci.[6]

Today's Zaman reviewer Emine Yıldırım describes the, "Full Metal Jacket"-inspired army epic, as, "one of the most disturbing films I have seen in a very long time", despite the fact she admits that she, "still remain undecided whether the film is a masterpiece or an emotionally explosive disaster." Following a slow start in which, according to Yıldırım, the film, "seems to launch into too much of an advertisement", "Semerci manages to create a stunning atmosphere of abandonment, fear and camaraderie", as, "we get a better inside look at these young men." "The film is currently playing to a full house in almost all of Istanbul's movie theatres", she says of its popularity, "all hypnotized throughout its 128-minute running time and especially transfixed by its final sequence." Though the film, which according to Yıldırım, "remains patriotic from start to finish", "does not aim to be political in the general sense," "what Semerci does is to directly put the viewer in the shoes of the commandos and make the audience confront a violent truth that it has already been aware of for the past 30 years but had never seen on screen in such a continuously graphic way". "The problem," she continues, "is that this particular film gets lost in its own heroism while over-emotionalizing the predicament of the soldiers, and it also lacks a comprehensive and tight story structure while its political stance remains too murky". "Despite its flaws", Yıldırım concludes, the film, "marks a milestone in Turkish cinema by being the first film to take the risk of duly tackling an issue that has long been evaded", and, "provides a succinct depiction of what being a soldier in southeastern Turkey entails". "Hopefully," she adds, "it will be the harbinger of a long line of films undertaking the condition of people whose lives are directly influenced by the Turkish military."[4][8]

Hürriyet Daily News reviewer Emrah Güler states that, the teasers and the constant delay of the release date might have fueled debates before it met audiences, but the beautifully shot film featuring unknown actors successfully refrains from making any statements, instead remaining a haunting slice-of-life film about soldiers. Semerci moves his camera skillfully, slowly and with confidence across the skies, naked mountains, and a few soldiers lost along the depressing landscape. Most of the time, the scenes of stillness are enough to give the sense of loneliness, despair and meaninglessness of war, he continues, and when the movie moves into crafty and realistic scenes of military engagement, it refuses to stay a mix of detached action scenes but turn into tales of horror for everyone touched by war. Güller commends the cast by saying, Semerci’s selection of unknown names from acting schools around the country proves to be the right choice as no one character stands out, and it helps to amplify the sense of voyeurism into the lives of a real group of soldiers. He concedes that, For the Turkish audience, the experience of watching the everyday lives of these soldiers becomes more haunting as these border stations are the epitome of the lives of thousands claimed in the last two decades, and most people don’t have a clue what they look like or what it feels like to be on the edges of a country. The film strategically moves away from putting forward any message, and simply tells the stories of young men at war. It’s easy to interpret the movie in any way, depending on your take on the war. Semerci’s simply captures a group of scared young men ready to accept death because it’s the easiest option or, if they’re lucky, about to become damaged goods, scarred for life. This Güller concludes, is where, The unprecedented success of “Nefes” lies.[13]

Sabah columnist Emre Aköz, refuting claims that the film was anti-militaristic, said, The producers of the film, Levent Semerci, Hakan Evrensel and Mehmet İlker Altınay, have used all the symbols of Turkey’s dominant nationalist ideology: Atatürk’s sculpture on the mountain at a height of 2,365 meters, the slogan of ‘Vatan Sağolsun’ (may the country survive), a compassionate big-hearted Turkish soldier who treats a PKK militant rather than killing her, the city dwellers who do not care about the young men defending the country. After using all these symbols, how can this film not be a nationalist militarist one?[6]

Zaman columnist Nedim Hazar, who felt it wrong to shoot a film about an ongoing war, stated, Blood is still being shed. Ambushes, raids and attacks are going on; therefore it is impossible to raise criticism, make a comprehensive analysis or sum up the fight with a film about a bloody process in which there are thousands of victims and slain soldiers with their families. Furthermore, it serves to cover up the genuine factors that are still instrumental to the war, and, he concluded, If you criticize the film, you will be an enemy of the nation and the army; in contrast, when you praise the film and its context, you will be labeled as fascist.[6]

Galatasaray University scholar Hülya Uğur Tanrıöver, in an interview with NTV, criticises the film for gender discrimination, observing, The film underestimates the difficulties women face in big cities. In a phone conversation between a soldier and his lover living in İstanbul, the soldier ignores the problems she has in the city, saying, ‘What difficulties can you experience in İstanbul?’ Moreover, in the next scene, the commander tells a soldier whose girlfriend has left him, ‘This girl would cuckold you if you had not separated.’ These are clear insults to girls living in big cities, and the film, from this point of view, has definite elements of gender discrimination.[6]

Accolades[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A rainbow of Turkish films awaits moviegoers". Today's Zaman. 2008-07-22. Archived from the original on 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  2. ^ "70 domestic productions to debut this season". Today's Zaman. 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  3. ^ "This week in theaters". Today's Zaman. 2009-10-17. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  4. ^ a b Yıldırım, Emine (2009-10-21). "Levent Semerci's 'Nefes' marks milestone in Turkish cinema". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  5. ^ "Misc Notes for Nefes: Vatan sagolsun". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Çelık, Mınhac (2009-11-01). "'Nefes' causes debate on militarism and nationalism". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  7. ^ "Could film 'Nefes' be made by Turkish military?". Today's Zaman. 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  8. ^ a b Yıldırım, Emine (2009-12-26). "Ugly thugs, tearjerkers top Turkish box office in 2009". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  9. ^ a b "3rd Yeşilçam Awards presented". Turkish Daily News. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  10. ^ a b "'Nefes' named best film at Yeşilçam, 'Vavien' wins 3 prizes". Today's Zaman. 2010-03-25. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  11. ^ Koca, Ali (2010-07-23). "Second time around one time too many for moviegoers". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  12. ^ "Filming locations for Nefes: Vatan sagolsun". IMDB. Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  13. ^ a b Güler, Emrah (2009-10-23). "Breathing life into a history of war". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  14. ^ a b c "Nefes". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  15. ^ "Semerci's 'Nefes' opens NY Turkish Film Days". Today's Zaman. 2010-05-26. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  16. ^ "BREATH / NEFES: VATAN SAĞOLSUN". AKFF. Retrieved 2010-09-27. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Turkey's Golden Boll film festival draws to a close". Hürriyet Daily News. 2010-09-26. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Three Monkeys
Yeşilçam Best Film Award
2010
Succeeded by
Majority
Preceded by
Autumn
Turkcell First Film Award
2010
Succeeded by
Majority