So this year’s Turkish comedy of errors, with a bit of action sprinkled in along the lines of “Snatch” and “8 Heads in a Duffel Bag,” comes from TV director/writer Ersoy Güler with his big screen debut “Sağ Salim” (Safe and Sound).
Honestly, it’s not the most tightly knit piece of entertainment you’ll see, but with a smart plot and some very memorable gags, this film hits the mark and is destined to make its producers happy at the box office as we all know the Turkish public has a soft spot for local comedies, especially if there is a clueless philistine of a character involved.
Salim (Burçin Bildik) is the kind of naive guy who makes you laugh merely by existing. His body language, speech pattern and imbecilic smile are the kinds of elements that charm you in a very unexpected way. He lives in a village in Mersin and makes a living transporting small things with his yellow truck.
One day, the village headman asks Salim to take the body of a dead man to Sivas so the poor soul can be buried in his hometown. Salim has an immense fear of death and dead people, so he instantly freaks out at the proposition, but he cannot refuse. This is only the beginning of a very odd series of events that will happen to this poor sap throughout the day on the road.
While Salim is traveling down the road, he picks up a lone hitch hiker called Recai (Alper Saldıran), a young man who may or may not be related to the dead man. Salim and Recai accidentally hit a truck and think they have killed somebody. However, it turns out there were two men, one of whom was already dead and the other, well, he might not be dead after all! But Salim is already burdened with guilt, and things get even worse when a runaway drug dealer secretly hops in the back of the truck and hides in the coffin with the first dead body.
Next, the two men run into a young girl, Nihal (Fulya Zenginer), who is escaping from her father and psychotic boyfriend. But Nihal might also be related to one of the three bodies or the drug dealer in the coffin. As if that’s not enough, Salim also runs into the psychotic boyfriend who, in a very tragicomic turn of events, ruins everyone’s lives. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the mafia has been tricked into believing Salim stole something from them.
The plot is rather tiring to explain, but very impeccably intertwined and crafted. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised that this genre of intelligent black humor is on its way towards its heyday in Turkey, since producers have generally preferred to opt for crass comedy. Comedian Tolga Çevik’s polished “Sen Kimsin,” which came out several weeks ago, can also be considered a part of this brand of intelligent humor; however, “Sağ Salim” is much more unapologetic and courageous in its absurdity, not to mention its screenwriting.
The visual aesthetics are quite impressive, even though there remains the typical Turkish TV-serial feel to them. It is the comedic timing that truly pulsates at the heart of this film, more so than any other cinematic element. The acting by leads Bildik, Saldıran and Zenginer are well harmonized throughout the whole picture, even though it is Bildik who stands out as the class clown.
This piece of black comedy had me roaring with laughter after the first 20 minutes had passed, as it took a while for the narrative to settle into place. Furthermore, the writers could have stayed away from some intensely familiar stereotypes, especially those of the mafia members. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that it came very close in achieving its comedic aspirations and will be appealing to a varied audience. I will not forget the budding friendship between the drug dealer and the corpse in the coffin in particular; there are some lines that are pure genius.
(Safe and Sound)
Directed by: Ersoy Güler
Cast: Burçin Bildik, Fulya Zenginer, Alper Saldıran,
Hüseyin Avni Danyal