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Perhaps one of Çağan Irmak's most ambitious works, shorn of sentimentality, KARANLIK TAKİLER (IN DARKNESS) concentrates on the life of Egemen (Erdem Akakçe), a loser living in one of İstanbul's less salubrious suburbs with his mother Gülseren (Meral Çetinkaya). She believes in his potential to succeed; but in truth Egemen is nothing more than a gofer in an advertising agency run by Umay (Derya Alabora). Unable to tolerate life at home, Egemen spends much of his time in the office, even though he does not actually do much. Eventually life grows so unbearable for him that he decides on a course of action that will change him forever.
KARANLIK TAKİLER shares with many contemporary Turkish films a preoccupation with alienation: Egemen is usually shot in isolation, either constrained by corridors or imprisoned behind a desk. In exterior shots he is largely photographed in medium close-up; when he appears in two-shots, his back is often turned towards his interlocutor. He is truly an ugly duckling; ostracized by most of his workmates as well as his relatives (in one sequence his aunt and uncle silently speculate on why he has holed up at their house on a Sunday afternoon), and hence unable to confess his frustrations to anyone.
Gülseren suffers even more - apparently agoraphobic, she imagines herself besieged in her old-fashioned apartment by unseen (perhaps imaginary) assailants. Tormented each day by street urchins throwing vegetables at her front door, and hurling abuse whenever she appears at the window, she leads a miserable existence. Nor does Egemen appear to empathize with her plight; in one sequence he literally drags her down the stairs and throws her out of the house.
As the narrative unfolds, we understand the reason for her distress. In a series of horrific point of view shots, we understand how she became a virtual prisoner on account of her family's desire to maintain their honor, even if it leads to Gülseren's perpetual suffering.
Despite the sincerity of the performances, Irmak's film takes a superficial view of the characters. There is little attempt, either in the script or in the filming (which tends to be very repetitive, with shot/reverse shot sequences interrupted by occasional aerial shots), to explore the psychological effects of intense loneliness. Rather Irmak tends to pile the pressure on Egemen; he is quite literally someone with no prospect of escape, either physical or psychological.
The ending is something of a cop-out; we know it will happen, but when it occurs, we feel somehow cheated, as if the director took the easy way out rather than exploring the consequences of Egemen's decision to the full.
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