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Film Review - Night of Silence
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Director: Reis Celik, Turkey

A Turkish man (Ilyas Salman), after many years in prison, is promised a beautiful young bride for his service to his family. The beautiful bride (Dilan Aksüt) is picked from the rival clan to end the disputes between the two family clans. The film gives us a bird’s-eye view of a Turkish wedding night. The bride is adorned with gifts of gold, new clothes and her family has embroidered many linen items for the bridal pair. On the day we hear the extreme excitement of the village as the bride is brought out to her ‘’new home.” She is instructed to uphold her husband’s family honor, to obey and make him happy even if he beats her. This is said several times by the mother-in-law to the small figure covered in a red veil and then she is placed on the sacred bed and given a small white sheet which must be shown in the first light of dawn to prove her rights of passage on their wedding night.

From the beginning, there is a trapped feeling about these two characters, who have to comply with the family traditions. The camera gives a claustrophobic feeling in this small room where the bride is waiting with dread even though we don’t see her face. When the groom shows up and unveils her, he is quite surprised how beautiful and young she is and attempts to win her confidence. As the evening continues, this insecure girl attempts to distract the groom from going to bed with imaginary fears, story telling, and prayers which seems to be working as dawn is approaching. The groom, too, begins to slowly break down under the pressure and feels that he is being used by his own family once again.

I think it was quite a surprise to Reis Celik that his film was chosen for the festival’s Generation 14plus Category. He felt that his film wasn’t a children’s film but the main actress is only 14 years old. He said at Q & A that this film wasn’t really about the age difference between the two characters but the fact they were being forced into marriage due to honor and loyalty. But I am sure he wasn’t surprised to win the Crystal Bear for best picture since this film really said so much with so little. In essence there were only two characters and with those two characters, he managed to have them convey so much emotion. It is a glimpse into another way of life where such marriages do exist. I didn’t have the feeling Celik wanted to pass judgment over the cultural ways but to describe how it must feel when this happens. This is his second film that I have seen, the first being Trotzgeschichten, where Celik takes us deep into the mountains of Antalya. This setting is so remote that the films have a fairytale quality about them and at the same time show us into an ethnic world that is quite different from our own.