Film, Film Review

BTFF REVIEW: Kerr (2021) dir. Tayfun Pirselimoğlu

Part of the Boston Turkish Film Festival


The Boston Turkish Film Festival runs from Friday, 3/24 through Sunday, 3/26 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and through 4/29 virtually. Click here for the schedule and ticket info, and watch the site for Joshua Polanski’s continuing coverage!

Apart from those of us who never moved away from home, we’ve all lost what was once our hometown at some point in our adult lives. The years pass and we are no longer capable of recognizing the places we grew up, the places we spent our most formative years. Noticing storefronts and streets that weren’t there before, everything feels off even if mentally you’re indifferent to the changes. In my case, the Little Caesers is now a predatory payday loan store and the Family Video (originally a Blockbuster) is now a gas station. That’s more or less the predicament of Can (Erdem Şenocak), a printer and son of a small town’s recently deceased tailor, in Kerr, a black-comedy by Tayfun Pirselimoğlu (who also wrote the book by the same name). The film’s East Coast Premiere with the BTFF was preceded by short films Echo and Hello Africa.

Readying to leave the town following the funeral, Can witnesses a murder, and the police require him to stay following his testimony. Without telling anyone other than the officers, the whole town seems to know he witnessed a murder, and several people even know suspicious details, such as the means of death. Unseen rumored rabid dogs catalyze a quarantine; curfews are announced with little reason; mysterious holes appear throughout the town, including one seemingly endless abyss connecting to purgatory in his father’s basement; and none of the townspeople present as sane.

The most confounding characteristic of this little town, though, is the way everyone speaks as if the rules of conversational reciprocation do not apply to them. If Can asks someone– say, the barber– about the mysterious woman who cared for his ailing father (and who is the ex-wife of the murder victim), the barber’s response will initiate a new topic—as if Can hadn’t spoken at all. Can then will repeat his important question to which his conversational partner will respond with a third topic. Finally, Can abandons the rules of the game and responds to the most recent topic (or the second)—which, by some erratic logic, empowers the conversation partner to respond, usually allusively, to the original question. It might go something like this (what follows is not an actual reconstruction of dialogue):

Can: “Have you seen the woman who cared for my father?”

Conversation Partner: “I heard you witnessed the murder.”

Can: “Have you seen the woman who cared for my father?”

CP: “You look nothing like your dad.”

Can: “What?”

CP: “Nope. Haven’t seen her.” 

Can: “How did you know (about the murder)?”

CP: “Your dad made me a suit.”

Can: “He’s dead now.” 

CP: “Actually, you don’t look so much like him.”

Black comedies usually aren’t my thing, but for some reason I never found this bizarre conversation pattern bland or exhausting. And it’s a good thing I didn’t, because that’s virtually how all of the dialogue plays out. The only frame of reference I have for these dialogue beats are the funniest moments of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Like Wright’s films, this creative construction underscores the backwardnesses of this small and interdependent community. One oft-repeated question, very intentionally placed and always cleverly timed, goes unanswered: “What do you think of the state of the country?” For an unanswered question, the political reframing of the town’s ridiculousness 

We live in a dumb world, and Pirselimoğlu has his thumb right on the pulse of what makes it so stupid.

dir. Tayfun Pirselimoğlu
101 min.

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