Kırmızıgül’s ‘White Angel’ deserves to be watched and applauded

Containing all the arguments of the commercial cinema, singer-turned-filmmaker Mahsun Kırmızıgül’s first directing effort, 'Beyaz Melek,' is definitely above expectations

November 17, 2007, Saturday/ 18:48:00
I should note first of all that I always view projects such as "Beyaz Melek" (The White Angel) with prejudice and suspect that they only have commercial concerns.I mean the films by those who fill a bus to the brim with famous actors and actresses and who, relying on the presence of those artists, don't care a whit about themes, messages or cinematography. So I thought that we had to take a skeptical approach to arabesque singer Mahsun Kırmızıgül's first directing effort, "Beyaz Melek," also written by him. However my prejudiced approach immediately disappeared after watching the film; but on the other hand I also understood how correct I was. That is, it is wrong to make generalizations -- always. The celebrities who starred in "Beyaz Melek" contributed to the quality of the movie; however, they at the same time turned out to be the factors that took the movie apart from its essence.

Kırmızıgül is a popular figure in the world of arabesque music. We also know that he is among a handful of musicians of his kind who have received a musical education. Frankly speaking, although the video clips he's shot and the TV series he's starred in to date meet the standards of the genre he is representing, he had been among those people who has made no real contribution to art. Therefore one doesn't expect much from a Kırmızıgül movie. The first thing that breaks this wall of prejudice is the movie's trailer, which is of a high aesthetic and cinematographic value that one would not expect to find in the movie. For this reason, one of my friends who attended the premiere with me made a joke before the movie started, saying: "Oh God, I hope it turns out to be a bad movie, I don't want to be mistaken!"

Not to beat around the bush, I'd better move on to the positive and negative sides of the movie. First of all, "Beyaz Melek" contains what I personally value so much: the East-West contradiction and a comparison of values. It brings the dominating force of the West -- the mind -- and that of the East -- the heart - face to face. For this reason "Beyaz Melek" seems to provide a cinematographic solution to a contemporary issue. The film tells the story of a feudal leader who comes to the West as a result of a brain disease he contracts and contains a very deep criticism of a West where people are lonely and poor despite all their material wealth and where spiritual values are being lost. This was actually what surprised me the most. "Beyaz Melek" doesn't take a folkloric approach to the East-West comparison as in Yılmaz Erdoğan's movies. Apart from this, it still falls into the marshland of exaggerated caricature-ization which seems to have "worked into the veins" of the celebrities who star in the film. Moviegoers might be fond of this, but it is still an important setback for a movie.

The film follows a captivating and absorbing course of events that befall two eastern youths whose father comes down with cancer, as a result of which they find themselves in a rest home, portraying the solitude and loneliness of Western people and the submission, wisdom and resignation of Eastern people.

What saddened me most is that the scriptwriter-director doesn't seem to have delved into this gold mine, although he has found such a very big one; he just keeps wandering around it. If he had managed to do that, we would've easily said, "Beyaz Melek contains a remedy for Turkey's problems, which currently include cultural confrontations, identity debates and terrorism, although it doesn't have any pretensions." However, this link the director fails to completely establish between the East and the West shows up. It's as if the director tortures spectators in the movie's initial sequences, whereas it later turns out that it is quite possible to resolve the events that occur in Istanbul in the eastern frames.

The fact that the director is also a musician is visible in many parts of the film, sometimes disturbing the course of the film by taking on an exaggerated character. And of course the roles played by celebrities are very impressive. However, contrary to the commonly held opinion, I found Yıldız Kenter's acting exaggerated. It's as if she were acting in a theater play. Also, Nejat Uygur; it's so obvious that he makes painstaking efforts to repress his comedic side that has been with him for decades -- it's just as obvious that he fails to do that at some points.

In the final analysis, "Beyaz Melek" is a movie that will shock -- in a positive sense -- those whose expectations for the film are very low because of Kırmızıgül. It's also a movie that is very "presentable," whose language and message is very clear. In addition, it contains as much laughter and tears as any Yeşilçam movie does. It should be watched and applauded as a first film of a first-time director.

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