Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bliss (Mutluluk)

Bliss (Mutluluk in Turkish) is the story of a young girl who is raped and according to the customs in her village she must be killed in order to restore honor to her family. The eldest son of the village's leader must take her to Istanbul to kill her so that the government will not find out (honor killings are illegal but still practiced). Upon their arrival to Istanbul Cemal (the eldest son) finds that he cannot kill her and so the two can never go back to the village. Throughout the rest of the story Cemal and Meryem (the young girl) struggle with the belief system they were brought up in, and in a strange way grow closer together, but when the identity of Meryem's rapist is revealed we learn that personal gain is driving force behind not only Meryem's death sentence, but behind many of the world's evils.

After Meryem is found in a field, left for dead there is much commotion about what is to be done, the village leader says that she must be put to death because she is a mark on the village. It is the duty of his eldest son Cemal to kill her in Istanbul away from the prying eyes of the government officials that are in their small town. Upon arriving to Istanbul Cemal finds that he cannot kill her, and instead they run away. Cemal is very harsh towards Meryem at first, he bullies her and expects her to do "women's work," at one point he even refers to her as a whore and slaps her. Eventually the two start to work for an ex college professor who attempts to educate them about the world and the way it works. Cemal is reluctant to advance in his belief's (he had just been relieved from the military when he arrived to the village, and appears to have some issues because of this) and let go of what he has learned. Meryem, on the other hand, who is even less educated than Cemal is very open to learning about the world, despite missing her home village very much. Eventually (with some help from the Professor) Cemal realizes that his problems stem from the fact that he loves Meryem and through some commotion involving a chase scene, a flashback style montage and some screaming we learn that it was Cemal's father (the village leader) who raped Meryem.

Turkey is a Muslim country (predominantly Sufi's) and Meryem and Cemal are therefore Muslims, at first we believe that it is the village and the old traditions that people cling to that are causing the problems, especially since both Meryem's father and stepmother give in easily to the notion of Meryem being killed. It is not until the end of the movie, and the discovery of the rapist's identity that we realize that the entire movie is a metaphor for using religion to gain for the one's self. Cemal's father only wanted Meryem dead because he was afraid she would tell on him and so the rest of the town would kill him, Meryem being his only witness and victim therefore had to go. Ironically for him Meryem's memories of the rape had been repressed and she could not remember who had raped her, only that she had not dishonored her family. Had Cemal's father not sent people out to kill Meryem and bring back Cemal, the chase/flashback scene never would have occurred.

Islam is a religion currently up for a lot of debate, with many people pointing fingers and saying that the religion itself breeds contempt. This film is an attempt to "debunk" this myth, so to speak and bring to light that any religion can be a bad thing when manipulated to pursue any kind of personal wealth. A prime example is the fact that no one in the movie ever explicitly says that they are Muslim, in fact there are almost no references to Islam in the entire movie. It is implied that they are muslims because the movie is set in Turkey, although the plot could arguably be put in any country/religion and the message would be the same.  Cemal being so rude to Meryem, and his uncontrollable anger seem to imply that both of them are suffering in different ways from their country's (or religion's) flaws, but the movie ends with Cemal returning to the village and confronting his father. He does not kill him, but walks away. There seems to be some kind of peace about Cemal when he does this, it is Cemal finally removing himself from the hold his father had on him and freeing himself of such restrictions, he is his own man.The gun is left with Meryem's cowardly father who shoots his daughter's rapist himself, he had been under the impression that he was doing the right thing by listening to Cemal's father, despite the weak attempts he made to save her. Meryem's father is liberated by killing Cemal's father, the man who used custom, religion and his sons to manipulate those around him. This movie combines custom, romance, mystery and religion to illustrate that Islam (or religion) isn't bad, or wrong but the people who use it to their own gain are.

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