The sophomore film of Ali Vatansever ‘Saf’ is a harrowing tale of an idealist man whose morality is threatened by the financial crisis due to socio-political exploitation. Though the film focuses on an indigent young couple struggling to keep themselves afloat while the sprawling neighbourhood of Istanbul is going under a drastic change of urban renewal, ‘Saf’ holds the universal truth about the politically motivated re-establishment of the city leading to the suffering of the common man.
Kamil (Erol Afsin), a young married man, has droopy shoulders and a slouch. Empty eyes looking at the void and a weakening spirit holding on a hope to find a job. He is a benevolent, conscientious and honest. In one of the heartbreaking scenes, which I found to be amusing, Kamil is handed money in exchange for his gratuitous help to repair the broken car in the middle of nowhere. It puzzles Kamil at first, he accepts the money after thinking a while, as he was not prepared for it. But the decaying financial conditions at home and in the country compelled him to sell his gratitude as a service.
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Burgeoning Syrian emigration has resulted in a dearth of the jobs, and swingeing struggle to get a job, even at lower wages, has morally corrupted the society and its inhabitant. But the kind behaviour of Kamil doesn’t let go of him that easily. Even when a Syrian man, standing in a queue for a job application ahead of Kamil, is beaten black and blue for stealing Turkish jobs, Kamil confronts the raging crowd and protects him. It is his inherent quality of compassion and kindness later stifles him.
It pains him the most when he secretly takes a position of bulldozer driver in Burat Corporation, the very industry encroaching on their Fikirtepe neighbourhood. The fact that he has replaced a Syrian working man, who stays with his family in a deplorable condition in an abandoned deteriorating building that could collapse anytime, torments him with piercing agony.
Kamil’s wife, Remziye (Saadet Isil Aksoy), is buoyant and realist, contrary to her husband. She works as a housekeeper for an affluent household. When Kamil doesn’t receive monetary help from his cousin and Uncle, the desperation dethrones his binding values, that finds Remziye in a distraught state.
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DoP Tudor Vladimir Panduru (prominently known for Graduation) employs deep focus camera technique muting the colours for most of the part to achieve the sense of moral decay in the wake of economic collapse ruining the society and infrastructure. Ali Vatansever’s writing is not a flawless one, but the earnest and impartial intentions reflect in the characters he created and used as a vantage point to mirror the socio-economic renaissance leading to human frailty. It surgically addresses the urgent issues on social and moral grounds. And how it impels people to compromise on their ethics & integrity, thus restructuring their character.