Friday, April 1, 2022

#2,732. Dry Summer (1963) - Spotlight on Turkey


A 1963 black and white Turkish film directed by Metin Erksan, Dry Summer relates the tale of a farmer who refuses to share the water that runs through his land.

Despite the objections of his younger brother Hasan (Ulvi Dogan) Osman (Erol Taş) builds a dam on his property to prevent the water in his nearby spring from flowing down into the village. Naturally, his neighbors aren’t happy about this, and try to convince Osman that he does not own the water, which they call “The Earth’s Blood”.

As Osman is battling it out with the locals, Hasan is busy romancing Bahar (Hülya Koçyiğit), a pretty young woman he eventually marries. But along with his desire to control the water, Osman finds himself falling in love with his new sister-in-law, setting in motion a chain of events that may tear both his family and the entire village apart.

Though it won the top prize at that year’s Berlin International Film Festival, Dry Summer met with backlash in its native Turkey, where censors banned the movie for its frank depiction of sexuality (the love scenes between Hasan and Bahar, as well as Osman’s growing obsession with Bahar, are fairly racy for a 1963 film).

But there’s more to Dry Summer than sex; throughout the film, director Erksan tackles the very serious subject of property, and what it means to “own” a basic necessity. Osman’s selfish attitude towards the water on his land sets him up at the outset as - at best - an anti-hero. He feuds constantly with his neighbors, sometimes violently, and seems to enjoy the fact that he alone controls their livelihoods (they are also farmers, and need the water for their crops). By the time his obsession with his sister-in-law Bahar intensifies, Osman has cemented his position as the film’s most loathsome character (at one point, he even sucks on the teat of a cow as Bahar looks on, in a vain attempt to enflame her passions).

While presenting these social and familial conflicts, director Erksan utilizes a robust visual style; from the opening moments, where Osman guides his two mules through the village streets, to the scene where Hasan playfully chases Behar into some tall reeds, Dry Summer is as much an artistic triumph as it is a dramatic one.

Despite a few disturbing moments (angered by his refusal to share the water, a farmer shoots Osman’s dog, and it’s obvious the animal was killed in real-life) and a despicable lead character, Dry Summer is an amazing motion picture, a glimpse at an oft-unexplored area of the world created by a filmmaker skillfully blending art and social commentary into a very satisfying whole.
Rating: 9 out of 10

No comments: