I could have sworn the titles said Hududların Kanunu, but there’s never any mistakes on Wikipedia, right?
So we are going with Hudutların Kanunu.
The Law of the Border.
And it is such an honor to review another Turkish film.
I must say, this one really “spoke” to me.
Not only does Yılmaz Güney play the lead role of Hidir, but this same actor also wrote the screenplay.
As I watched Yılmaz Güney’s wonderful portrayal of the smuggler Hidir, I was reminded of Antonin Artaud’s acting in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.
Güney’s penetrating eyes and stoic face are very similar to Artaud’s physical features.
But not only that.
It occurs to me that Güney bears a striking resemblance to a more contemporary figure: Vladimir Putin.
This is all the more interesting when one considers that Güney was born Yılmaz Pütün.
Güney was a Zaza Kurd who apparently got in trouble often with the Turkish government.
He died an early death at age 47 (in 1984).
Whether Hudutların Kanunu is propaganda is beside the point.
It certainly has traits of propaganda films, but it’s such a damn good movie that it doesn’t really matter.
Yes, there is a social justice angle to Güney’s story, but much credit should go to the wonderful directing job of Ömer Lütfi Akad.
Though Güney himself was a director as well, he did not direct this film.
Güney, by the way, had a fascinating life (including an escape from prison in 1981 and a subsequent Palme d’Or at Cannes for the film Yol).
[Sounds a bit like Timothy Leary’s prison-break and rendezvous in Switzerland with Ash Ra Tempel.]
If my numbers are correct, Güney acted in 14 films released in 1966 (!) [including this one] and also directed one as well.
Only one copy of Hudutların Kanunu survived Ahmet Kenan Evren’s 1980 coup in Turkey.
I would describe this wonderful film as being like a 1960s Turkish version of Sicario.
Though The Law of the Border is not a big-budget movie (a military officer comically says “let’s surround them” when he only has three soldiers [himself included]), the film is overall convincing. It conveys a very powerful story.
As stated earlier, the principal activity at issue is smuggling.
What could be more timely to this day and age?
In the US it is drugs (from Mexico), and in Turkey it is perhaps other things (coming in and out of Syria).
And if the main character looks like Putin?!?
Well, it certainly confuses the meaning, but it still makes it like a Salvador Dalí dream.
It’s like a perfect storm of symbolism.
Furthermore, besides being a film set on a border, a main issue is education in Turkey.
This is, once again, a very timely issue.
As you might have heard last year, there were many protests by high school students in Turkey about the trend of religious schools replacing secular (or science) schools.
Incidentally, our director Ömer Lütfi Akad went to the oldest high school in Turkey: Galatasaray Lisesi in Istanbul. The school was started in 1481.
But let me tell you something important…
This film is very entertaining!!!
Whizz! Bing! Pow!
It reminds me a bit of Howard Hawks’ Scarface from 1932.
Also at issue in this film is the concept of change.
Can a person change their beliefs?
Can I change my beliefs?
I am 39.
Yılmaz Güney was 29 at the time of this film.
Can we change our beliefs?
And should we?
For Güney’s character Hidir, changing his beliefs is a Herculean effort.
And the moral of the somewhat-propagandistic story is that he’s a hero…JUST FOR TRYING.
He tried to change.
He makes a valiant effort.
A bit like Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.
This is the challenge for the world.
To look ourselves in our mirrors and make an effort.
Not physically (necessarily), but philosophically.
I’m not here to offer you propaganda.
But I am very concerned with the situation the real Vladimir Putin has been put in in Syria.
Why do we fight? [to echo the old series of American propaganda films from WWII]
We fight for the same reason anyone else does.
Or rather, Putin fights because he has drawn a line.
No more American aggression.
Syria is his line.
It’s not a game.
It’s real blood and real tears.
Proxy wars are not like AGMs (annual general meetings).
They are more like air-to-ground missiles (AGMs).
War is not a strictly academic affair.
It’s messy. It’s sad. It’s unnecessary (most of the time).
And the US and Russia have painted themselves into a corner.
That corner is Syria.
Perhaps Hudutların Kanunu is the Sholay of Turkey.
Perhaps it is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Anatolia.
One thing is sure: Yılmaz Güney, “the Ugly King” (Çirkin Kral), was a brilliant man.