Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Turkmens hit the silver screen: Resurrection Ertugrul

I don't know anything about the Turkish film industry, but since I started to follow the movie Resurrection Ertugrul on Netflix I have begun to suspect that the best Turkish films, at least, must be very good indeed.

Turkmen is the name given to ethnic Turks who live a cattle-herding, nomadic style. This movie (actually a long-running serial) is about a tribe of Turkmens, the Kiya, and their trials and tribulations in the early 13th century. The movie is classic good-guy v. bad-guy stuff. The good guys are led by Ertugrul, a strong, silent type who stands for a virtuous life led according to tribal custom. The bad guys are just about everybody else -- Seljuks, Ertugrul's brother (at least some of the time), scheming Kiya women looking for a good marriage, the Knights Templar. Most of these people don't give a hang about antique virtue. They just want a good war that they can profit from, or vengeance.

This lauding of the virtuous, represented by the figure of the nomad reminds me of the movie Mongol which I blogged about maybe ten years ago. In that movie Genghis was the only guy playing by the rules. Everyone else was just waiting for a chance to stab him in the back, enslave his wife, etc.

Resurrection Ertugrul and Mongol have something else in common. They are really good.
Resuurection Ertugrul has it all. Lots of horses. Huge skyscapes. Great fighting sequences. A world-famous Sufi scholar who leads the good nomads in singing prayer-circles (the music is awesome).

A remarkable feature of the series is the rather minimal dialogue. People say something, assume an expression, and the audience is given time to absorb the significance of what has been said. It reminded me of opera, in which the songs make an emotional point, rather than building a narrative. The narrative gets built anyway, and it's not so hard to follow.

I wondered after about 10 episodes, what the directors would do if they decided to do a big series on the Round Table. It might be really cool.

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