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Aziz, a librarian who lives a lonely and peaceful life, develops a strong relationship with his new neighbor Seçil and her daughter Gizem. As he is coming out of his shell, Gizem falls into a coma which triggers a series of events, eventually leads Aziz and his friends to act courageously to save her.Written by
Optimistic View of How to Cope with Life in Contemporary İstanbul
PRENSESIN UYKUSU (THE SLEEPING PRINCESS) begins predictably enough with librarian Aziz (Çağlar Çorumlu) befriends little girl Gizem (Sevval Başpınar in a seedy apartment block in one of the less salubrious suburbs of İstanbul. Her mother Seçil (Sevinç Erbulak) is suspicious of Aziz's motives; and has every right to do so, having become accustomed to living with a series of violent boyfriends including Ersin (Baran Ayhan). This basic scenario is highly reminiscent of Zeki Demirkubuz's ÜÇÜNCÜ SAYFA (1999), where another one of life's losers becomes involved with a single parent and her offspring.
As the narrative unfolds, however, we understand that director Çağan Irmak is less interested in social criticism and more preoccupied with the ways in which people deal with life's pressures. Like Gizem, Aziz has had a turbulent childhood; beaten by his father and institutionalized from a young age, he has cultivated a Billy Liar- like capacity to create fantasies for himself. In Gizem he discovers a kindred spirit, especially when he reads her journal. Hence he ends up constructing modernized versions of the fairytale "The Sleeping Princess," in which he plays the Prince, Seçil the princess, and Gizem the little girl perpetually asleep in a white four-poster bed.
Irmak shows how such fantasizing is not just confined to Aziz; the elderly retired film director Kahraman (Genco Erkal) is equally preoccupied with the power of the imagination, especially when he spends a riotous night out on the tiles with Aziz's room-mate Neşet (Alican Yücesoy). Irmak has great fun linking the bright lights of one of İstanbul's fun-fairs to Kahraman's elated mental state; so long as the imagination is kept alive, anything can be possible.
The narrative comprises a fascinating combination of cinematic styles. Irmak is fond of using a hand-held camera to suggest instability, both mental as well as emotional: all the protagonists resemble ships that pass in the night, trying to forge relationships while being aware of the futility of their task. On the other hand the film contains numerous fantasy-sequences depicting Aziz's dreams of a perfect life for himself and Gizem, as well as animation depicting his turbulent past. Such sequences remind us of how the past can become as fictional as any story, especially to those who use fantasy to negotiate it.
The film has a sentimental ending in which everyone achieves their dreams. On the other hand the fixed smiles of the protagonists are strongly reminiscent of those used in Yeşilçam melodramas of the past (the kind of movies that Kahraman used to direct at the height of his powers), suggesting, perhaps, that happy endings are transient and soon forgotten once the memories of a particular movie start to fade. It's best to enjoy the moment and not think too deeply about the future - which is precisely what Aziz tries to do.
PRENSESIN UYKUSU is an entertaining film, notable especially for two stellar central performances. Çorumlu's Aziz is at once strong- willed yet winsome, impossible to dislike despite his childlike nature. Even the hard-hearted Seçil comes to appreciate his qualities. Erkal's Kahraman offers a nuanced interpretation of an old man brought to life by the prospect of living life to the full, even though his Cinderella-like night of pleasure has the possibility of a tragic end.
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