A Tale of Love, Infidelity and Classical Standards
Set squarely during the period of the Republic of Turkey's rapid industrialization era of the late Fifties and early Sixties, NAMUS UGRUNA (FOR HONOR'S SAKE) tells the story of a young migrant (Esref Kolcak) trying to make an honest living as a cab-driver touring the city's flesh-pots, but remaining apparently unaffected by their charms. Apparently happily wedded to his loyal spouse (Serpil Gul), he does not take much home in pay, but he is happy with his modest lot, living in a small community on modest means.
Things take a turn for the worse, however, once he becomes involved in complicated plots of love and betrayal involving a good-time girl (Peri Han) and her rich lover (Memduh Un, later a well-known director in his own right. The scenario is set for another high- octane melodrama of passion and desire, with plenty of violence, action and incident - just the kind of brew Yesilcam cinema could provide time and again for its audiences.
What separates Osman F. Seden's black-and-white film from others within the genre is its focus on issues of intense concern at that time. In itself betrayal meant nothing; that was what women were expected to do, if they were not looked after by their spouses. It was a point of honor among all males that they should undertake this task; if they failed, they were subject to ridicule from their close friends in the Kiraathane, or coffee-house, which is precisely what happens here. This is what "honor" denotes in the film.
On the other hand, families were expected to be the bedrock of a stable society, and live comparatively modestly, shunning the fleshly delights of the big city. Director Seden makes much of the contrast between Esref's modest dwelling and the lights of the big city; in one, the citizens look out for one another and try to protect themselves; in the city, the people act hedonistically by eating, drinking, and indulging in casual affairs. The latter course inevitably leads to destruction, both moral as well as social.
Some of the sequences might seem quite violent by today's standards. They certainly are, but we have to invoke that point of honor once more; to find their spouses being unfaithful, or to have their moral character impugned were both major shortcomings to the male psyche, and sometimes the only way they could react was in the most elemental way possible. Yet Seden shows that Esref is not entirely bad - although his life is ruined by the film's end, he still vows faithfulness to his spouse, even while serving a forthcoming prison sentence. In the Yesilcam world humanity is always capable of redemption, if they understand the true values governing their society.
Technically speaking NAMUS UGRUNA is a superb example of how Yesilcam worked subliminally on the audience. The narrative jags from one sequence to another, punctuated by (plagiarized) sequences of western classical standards ranging from Stravinsky's "The Firebird," to Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique," to the Gershwin Brothers' "A Foggy Day." These are inserted quite deliberately for dramatic effect, to heighten emotion and thereby increase identification with the action; what is happening is part of real life, not cinematic fiction.
There is so much incident, action and movement in the film that we are left quite breathless by the end.
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