Directed by: Abdullah Oguz
Written by: Elif Ayan, Abdullah Oguz, Kubilay Tunçer
Based on novel by Zülfü Livaneli
Starring: Özgü Namal, Talat Bulut, Murat Han, Mustafa Avkiran, Emin Gursoy, Meral Çetinkaya, Lale Mansur, Sebnem Köstem, Leyla Basak
When a young woman named Meryem (Özgü Namal) is brutally raped and left for dead in a field by a farm, she finds no support or care from her family members, or the villagers; only anger, disappointment and a feeling of shame from the people around her. But the worst is yet to come for Meryem… The village custom requires that she must be killed in order to clean her family`s name and reputation. For this reason the leader of the village assigns the task to his own son, Cemal (Murat Han) who has just returned to the village after completing his military service. Cemal has no other choice but to obey his father’s order, and takes Meryem to Istanbul, where he is supposed to kill her… However, when the time comes to execute his father`s and the rest of the villager’s request, Cemal finds this undertaking impossible to complete; killing an enemy during a war, and killing an innocent woman are not the same thing.
Turkish cinematography is not well known by North-American viewers, unless, the film is shown during one of the International Film Festivals which take place across the country. For example, “Winter Sleep” (“Kis uykusu” original title) which is written and directed by a very well-known Turkish filmmaker, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and whose recent masterpiece was submitted for Oscar consideration, and will most likely end up in the top five. But let`s get back to the film “Bliss” (“Mutluluk” – original title), directed by Abdullah Oguz.
“Bliss” or “Mutluluk” begins with Meryem (Özgü Namal) lying unconscious in a field. But soon after, we find her locked up in the stables where she has been ordered by her family members to commit suicide- by hanging. But Meryem refuses to do so, and claims that she has done nothing wrong, and does not deserve such a horrible ending. We soon, also find out, that Meryem chooses not to reveal the identity of her rapist, which makes the people around her even more angry.
Cemal (Murat Han) is an officer, who has just come back to his home. But instead of enjoying his free time with family, he has been assigned to kill Meryem, and to make it look like an accident. Cemal agrees to follow his father`s order, but when he gets a chance to know Meryem better, Cemal understands that killing her is not the solution. Even though honour killing’ is part of the traditions of his homeland, he begins to realize that he is no longer part of that world…
“Bliss” is beautifully adapted from Zülfü Livaneli’s international best-selling novel, and is filled with intensity, vivid cultural clashes, superb music, and some absolutely breathtaking scenery of the ‘Sea of Marmara’. But ultimately what will truly amaze the viewers, is the true figure of the story, who, by her naïve look, open and pure heart, her kindness and natural beauty, is Meryem- the real victim; struggling to live in a culture that condones the practice of female ‘honour killings’. This gives the film a soul and a heart that will beat from the beginning to the end.
Özgü Namal is one of the finest and extremely talented actors in Turkey, and her truly stunning performance in many films has been recognized by numerous filmmakers. Her role as Meryem, Namal has won a Golden Orange Award at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, and the film also had a successful run in Europe. Murat Han does a tremendous job performing such a difficult character, who, as a man, belonging to a village with ancient rules and unspeakable traditions, has a difficult choice to make.
“Bliss” is an absolutely remarkable and truly stunning film about not just ‘honour killings’, or disobeying the laws, but rather, to do what is right, and about a life that is so simple and beautiful, it should not be wasted or simply taken away. “Bliss” is one of those films that will open our eyes to many things; to new cultures we may not be aware of, and will also introduce us to a kind and pure-hearted people, who know only one way to live their lives – by just being simply happy. Because happiness and love are powerful weapons that can open the gate to eternal bliss.