Monday, 13 May 2013


“Music is harmony, harmony is perfection, perfection is our dream, and our dream is heaven.” Henri Frederic Amiel

At the weekend we watched an interesting film from Turkey. One of the advantages of living in a multicultural city like Melbourne is that one may easily find products from many distant homelands, and that includes the stuff of entertainment and culture: DVDs, CDs, magazines, books, art, etc. Brunswick, an inner suburb of Melbourne, has a high proportion of Turkish-Australians, and there are many Turkish shops in this suburb. We bought a few Turkish movies with English subtitles at the Brunswick Market and the film we watched at the weekend was a very good one.

It was Director Murat Saraçoglu’s 2009 film “Deli Deli Olma” (“Crazy Occurrences” - English title given as “Piano Girl”), with a screenplay by Hazel Sevim Unsal, and starring Tarik Akan, Şerif Sezer, Çagla Acar, Deniz Arna. The movie combines humour and pathos, history and tradition, old and new, and weaves several stories together, giving a picture of life in Eşme Yazı, a small village close to the Eastern Anatolian city of Kars in Northeastern Turkey.

After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Molokans (a Christian sect) were forced into exile by Czarist Russia. Molokans were regarded as heretics by the Russian Orthodox Church and were named Molokans (milk-drinkers) because they drank milk on most of the fasting days in the church year in Eastern Christianity, something that Orthodox people eschew. The film traces the final years of Mishka (Tarık Akan), the last Russian Molokan in the village. Although the film is set in modern times, the village is so poor and remote that it seems as though we are looking back in time, with all of the old traditions, way of life and prejudices still at large.

The village people call the Molokan “yeke kişi” (i.e. “big man”), and certainly with his imposing height, long, white beard and hair, he looks like a patriarch and is well-liked by almost everyone in the village. Papuç (Şerif Sezer) is a short-tempered and cantankerous old woman who seems to terrify everyone. She alone seems to hate Mishka and wants him to leave, even after being there all his life. Papuç lives with her son Şemistan (Levent Tülek) the village grocer, his wife Figan (Zuhal Topal) and her three grandchildren. The youngest grandchild Alma (Cemile Nihan Turhan) is a plucky but tender-hearted girl who spends a lot of her time with Mishka, even though it is against her grandmother’s wishes.

One day Şemistan gives Mishka some flour and tea on credit. When Popuç discovers this, she makes life hell for her son, demanding that he make Mishka pay his debt. Mishka, although penniless decides to pay his debt to Şemistan by giving him his piano, an heirloom inherited from his father, who brought it from Russia. Part of the reason Mishka gives the piano to Şemistan is that Alma is musically talented and she wants to learn to play it. Alma is encouraged by the village teacher Metin (Korel Cezayirli) who has noticed that Alma has an ear for music and he want to convince her family to allow her to take the conservatory exam.

The villagers, however, are a little scared of the piano (“the devil’s machine”!) and use the instrument as a means to pay debts - whoever owes some money to someone else gives the piano as payment. Ultimately the piano ends up with Mishka again… However, there is also a lot of mystery and some unfinished stories from the past that eventually are uncovered and bring the film to its moving conclusion.

The acting in the movie is excellent and the two leads, Şerif Sezer and Tarık Akan, make the movie. The two children actors Cemile Nihan and Ozan Erdoğan consistently steal scenes and it certainly looks as though they shall have a career in movies. The direction and cinematography are well executed and the music running throughout the film almost as a counter-plot, is appropriate and suits the mood admirably. The vignettes of village life and the trials and tribulations of the Molokan refugees are intriguing, but the story is mainly about human relationships and the coming of age tale of Alma. The film is poignant and funny, touching and entertaining. It involved us from beginning to end and we can recommend it most highly.

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