The conquest of istanbul

The conquest of istanbul

All images: Kinostar

"Death to the Turks!" – the turkish blockbuster "Fetih 1453" offers anti-propaganda as propaganda. Western viewers should see

It has been a long time since a costume film has been such a mask of the present: The conquest of Constantinople – in the Occident it is more common to talk of the " Fall of Constantinople" the speech – by Ottoman troops lies admittedly already quite a while, exactly 559 years, zuruck. But actually it is not about exact representations of historical events, but Faruk Aksoy’s so juicy as reactionary costume ham beats the current domestic political battles. And thus becomes a reflection of the cultural upheavals of contemporary Turkic society.

It begins in Medina, in the year 627. The Islamic religious founder Mohammed has emigrated from Mecca, and is gathering his followers in his new residence. Meaningfully he mumbles – according to the Islamic prohibition of depiction for us as invisible as once in Hollywood the US president – one of his hadiths (i.e. prophesy words): "Truly, you will conquer Constantinople! What a wonderful leader will lead you, and what a wonderful army it will be!" The courtiers around him understood at once: "With these words, my Prophet, they have revealed to us the way to the Holy War." And shouting loudly: "Our prophet has proclaimed: One day Constantinople will be liberated." So far the exposure.

The religious verve of the young people is not completely preserved, it still takes the little while of 826 years until the prophecy comes true. But in front of Allah 1000 years are like a day and for this film and its makers it doesn’t look really different. A Muslim falcon is flying steeply through the centuries, looking slyly and a bit from above, as falcons do in the cinema, at the hustle and bustle of the people below. There you see another of the usual hidden object pictures of digitally choreographed history – and poof!!, a Stuka-style dive and after only five of the 160 minutes we are in the here and now of the year 2012, pardon: the year 1432. On 29.3.In 1432 the fourth son of Murad II was born in Edirne. who later – already briefly for two years, then after an interregnum from 1451 as Mehmed II. came to the throne of the Ottoman Empire.

The Luke Skywalker of Islam

Now everything, seen from God’s perspective, becomes slow and tame, for the human eyes in the cinema it is still hectic and nimble: Mehmed comes to the throne, there are doubters about his suitability for power, there are shady advisors, a languishing wife, a son who admires his father and suffers from the fact that he never has time. And there is Mehmed himself: A leader, born to coarse, endowed with prophecies and auspices, which bequeath him Aubergewohnliches.

He himself is convinced that he has to do what he has to do, where this conviction comes from, the film tells us as little as it shows doubts. The man has none either. It is in this respect superhuman. He doesn’t talk to anyone either, looks stubbornly and pinchedly at the ground or at a model of the metropolis of Constantinople, which we know he wants to conquer and which we also know he will conquer. A nerd. The film has no arguments at all, but always esotericism when it comes to motivating actions:

"It is what it is. It is just so"

In a dream he also meets Osman I., that medieval founder of the Ottoman dynasty. He talks to him, tells him again where to go, and the young ruler follows. A man with a mission. A Luke Skywalker of Islam, without fault, in this respect extremely boring – the moviegoer, you know, would rather have, like Princess Leia, a hedonistic spabbler and boozing whoremonger like Han Solo. There is also no Obi Wan Kenobi here, only a dead father.

The conquest of istanbul

There is something very typically Turkic about this film: time and again, Turkic films – not unlike American films in this respect – revolve around father-dominated Turkic men who are somehow under prere and have to do something that their father has decided for them, or that he has failed to do and told them to do. And the smart Christians, Darth Vader in Rome and the headquarters of the Imperial Fleet naturally recognize it first:

He wants to complete what his father failed to do. His next goal will undoubtedly be the train against Rome.

Mehmed II. says in the course of the film, which takes a very long time until we finally arrive at the siege of Constantinople, sentences like: "There is no more important task than to conquer Constantinople – but we need patience." Or: "When the time comes, the people will understand." He wants to create an empire, but most of the Ottomans do not want to go on a campaign. And he says sentences like: "Writing history is not a task for cowards."

Because such a hero is hard to bear in the long run even for the Turkish audience, the film gets a fat soap level underneath such sublime state-bearing passages. For example, there is Era, a beautiful and educated Turquoise woman, who for some reason is in Genoa and is constantly being propositioned by Giovanni Giustiniani Longo. Unsuccessfully, of course, because only a chaste girl is a good girl. So she comes home to the Turkic Empire, meets Ulubatli Hasan, a noble hero, who is the Han Solo of the film, and returns to her foster father Urban, the Christian cannon master, who eventually gives the cannon with which the walls of Constantinople fall. And because she wants to fight, she disguises herself as a man.

The Christian crusaders, on the other hand, are decently bose, murdering or enslaving women and children. Orthodox people are also seen as enemies "the Latins", and sees the completely appropriate pursuit of a Rasputin. But traceable here is a clammy sympathy of the film with the orthodox. After all, they are fundamentalists.

The conquest of istanbul

Meanwhile, the film shimmies through the years 1451 and 1452, ticking off historical fubnotes and also teaching you something: For example, you see how walls were made fit for fortification in April 1452: With a glue into which, among other things, egg white was stirred. There is also – huhu Guido! – Roman decadence when the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI. with several half-naked bikini beauties splashing in rose water.

Much is nonsense. But the national-religious Turkic historians give top marks for political reasons, even though they know that the film contains immense errors. No three-day plunder of Constantinople by the Ottoman army, but a decent burial of the dead emperor according to the rules "his religion".

"God with us! Down with the Turks!!"

Again and again "Fetih 1453" here also pathetic, good cinema, a bit cheaply made, but that’s how it is when you have no experience and only 17 million instead of 170. The digital effects are nevertheless ok, and so you see a lush ham, which gets really juicy in between, when blood loves, and when Mehmed finally puts on his armor, while his son looks on appreciatively, trembling, and the wife gets excited. Everything is exaggerated.

Then it gets serious: The Christians in the dialogues only hem and haw "The Incredibles" and presumably the film is referring to a few locals as well. They roar "Down with the Turks!", "Death to the Turks!", and "God with us! Down with the Turks!!" And there must be some Christian war atrocities, for example, when prisoners of war are killed. The Turks, on the other hand, are energetic and call "At your command, my Sultan!" or "We follow the teachings of the Koran."

So it must work, even more so when the first attack fails, and the miners, digging a tunnel, under the city walls, seek the victim death by blowing themselves up: "Allah u Akhbar! We will not die in vain."… Hm, somehow it does. Because even the explosion doesn’t bring anything except blood in the ground – good picture.

The conquest of istanbul

It does not get better: at some point a flag falls into the dirt. Ooooh, does the cinema and the movie. Kitsch music – which, by the way, like the cannon that decides the battle, comes from a Christian defector, a little boy named Benjamin Wallfisch – and then a few Turks have to die for the flag. "We never forget our martyrs!", shouts one – then one may actually think of Nazi cinema. Otherwise for the second half the description is enough "reactionary s***", for the first "Costume drama in mainstream style".

"Ben-Hur" under the opposite sign

Nevertheless the western excitement is not to be understood. "It has been a long time since one has seen a film that glorifies death and dying so fervently", writes the otherwise very esteemed Micha Brumlik in the taz – he probably has "300" missed the "Downfall" not understood,and also "Lord of the Rings" not seen and put in a Clint Eastwood war movie or in "Troy" the taz editorial office does not send a political scientist.

Looked at closely "Fetih 1453" despite dramaturgical parallels not like "Star Wars". It is like "Ben-Hur", only under the opposite sign. This was also American cultural imperialist propaganda. "Fetih 1453" is simply anti-propaganda, only in reverse. Here are the Christians, the bad guys, the Muslims the good guys. So what?

It is good for every Western viewer to see this film, so that he finally learns from his own irritation to be a little irritated by Hollywood, too. Globalization also means that Christians in cinema are not always mild, and that Westerners are not always the good guys.

Sharp weapon in a culture war

"Fetih 1453" is unappealing for entirely different reasons: if you compare it with a 60-year-old film on the same subject, namely Aydin Arakon’s (1918 to 1982) "Istanbul’un Fethi" from 1951, then you can see that the omens were changed. The new film is itself a sharp weapon in a culture war. At the just-concluded Istanbul Film Festival, where one could see many films that represent modern, urban, liberal Turkey, Turkic critics and filmmakers looked down in embarrassment when asked about "Fetih 1453" addressed.

With good reason, it is more embarrassing to liberal and educated Turks than it must be to us: The film is being promoted by the ruling Islamist "Justice and Development Party" (AKP) demanded, it was sponsored by the AKP-ruled municipality of Grob-Istanbul. And it serves the agenda of neo-Ottomanism, which is not so much aubenpolitical, but is directed inwards. Its goal is a conservative revolution against the republic, which was founded secularly and rationally by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Fetih Beyoglu: The conquest of the Beyoglu district

At the end of the festival, they protested again: a group of a few hundred people consisting mainly of students and young educated bourgeoisie. For the past two years, they have been meeting regularly and then marching with banners up Istiklal Caddesi, which the locals only refer to as the Emek "Boulevard" one of the most splendid shopping streets of Istanbul, unmistakably influenced by the Paris model.

The train ends in a small side street directly in front of the "Emek Sinemasi" – this is the name of the most beautiful cinema of the city. Built in 1920, the Emek is one of the last temples from the rough days of cinema. Until three years ago, it was the heart of the International Film Festival, which is now in its 31st year. The event takes place every April in Istanbul. Now it stands empty, not because it was badly visited, but because an investor has bought the whole block and largely demolished it. A huge shopping mall was built with a facade in the pseudo-classical Zuckerbacker style and a huge three-story Saturn store inside.

The conquest of istanbul

Only the Emek is still standing because of the many protests, the investor also wants to gut it and turn it into a fashionable box cinema. In the meantime, the Emek has become a symbol of the changes that Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, is currently experiencing: skyscrapers are springing up like mushrooms, the city’s population (currently approx.15 million) is expected to double in the next 20 years, and the number of cars is expected to quadruple. The number of shopping malls is growing even more rapidly. Small stores are displaced, grown quarters are increasingly destroyed. And on the boulevard, the traditional weekend shopping destination for generations of Istanbulites, the old stores are closing in favor of global label stores from "Nike" to "North Sea". It just sounds like a bad joke that parallel to the film festival, a four-week "Shopping Festival" took place, which was also organized by the Ministry of Culture (!) is demanded.

The poster of this year’s demonstration ironized the movie poster of "Fetih 1453": Erdigan was on it, the mayor, and some investor heads: "Fetih Beyoglu" stood above it: "The conquest of the Beyoglu district".

Purity Ideology, Virtue Terror, and a Conservative Revolution Agenda

Half a dozen new Turkish films take a direct look at such developments. "Ecumenopolis: City without limits" Imre Azem’s impressive documentary film – to be shown next week in Berlin at the Turkish Film Festival. The director tells the story of the increasing destruction of the old Istanbul and accompanies a family that is driven out of their apartment by the demolition excavators and fights with other ordinary burghers for their rights.

The Istanbul-born Norwegian Annie Pertan portrays in "The Colours of Diversity" Istanbul’s contemporary art scene and, similarly to Aslihan unaldi, describes in her "Overdrive: Istanbul in the New Millennium", How the alliance of nouveau riche greed and moderate Islamism that has come together in the ruling AKP party is increasingly threatening this diversity.

Even the title of "European Capital of Culture" Two years later, Istanbul’s European Capital of Culture will be viewed very critically by many artists and intellectuals, as a thinly veiled excuse to replace traditional structures with inflated events and fast-food culture – the AKP is also providing Istanbul’s burgermeister with a new identity. What is threatening to be lost is sensitively described by "Halic – Golden Horn". The first documentary by the renowned director Erden Kiral is a melancholic as well as very personal evocation of multicultural Istanbul and the old city on the Golden Horn.

The conquest of istanbul

We call it gentrification, but in Turkey it’s more than that: the hatred of the peasants for the metropolis, the hatred of the bigots for Istanbul, which represents everything they don’t like about their own country. The purity ideology that wants to ban drinking, smoking, sitting out in the evening, unveiled women and book-reading men. Like Mehmed II. once conquered Constantinople, Prime Minister Erdogan now wants to conquer Istanbul.

A film like "Fetih 1453" brings this AKP ideology among the people, also in Germany. It is the precise document of a society that is currently oriented rather backwards, clinging helplessly to outdated traditions.

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