The Boston Turkish Film Festival ran from Friday, 3/24 through Sunday, 3/26 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and c0ntinues through 4/29 virtually. Click here for the schedule and ticket info, and watch the site for Joshua Polanski’s continuing coverage!
I’ve always found it insightful to consider who a book or film is dedicated to. It’s less common in film, a medium in which there is no singular artist to dictate the dedication in the same way as an author. That doesn’t stop director Çiğdem Sezgin and the rest of the creative team of Suna from dedicating their film to Cüneyt Cebenoyan, a Leftist film critic killed in a car accident in 2019. As far as I can tell, Cebenoyan played no role in the making of the film, although there is a film critic character who may or may not be inspired by him—I’m too ignorant to know for certain, but this seems logical. I don’t see this often in cinema: a dedication to someone not part of the filmmaking process itself.
A brief detour into the life story of Cebenoyan, who spent more than a year in prison for his Leftist politics following the 1980 coup, and by all accounts seems to have been one of Türkiye’s most original critics (in both film and politics), lets viewers know something about Suna, a film about the poor titular woman who marries a recent widower in a small town because it seemed like a better option than going homeless. The dedication, which doesn’t come until the film’s conclusion, signals a filmmaker appreciative of media criticism and, well, Leftist…not that it’s difficult to parse anyways.
Suna (Nurcan Eren) marries the elder Veysel (Tarık Papuççuoğlu), the most uninteresting person in town. He does little beyond work, brags about being well bathed, and holds himself to rather constrictive views of marital relations. Much more interesting is Can, a younger and attractive film critic (Fırat Tanış). (Like Cebenoyan, Can also has dabbled in filmmaking.) Though their relationship appears chaste, at least for now, Suna is shown with Can in two shots more often than with Veysel and she certainly enjoys his company more. When at home, instead of romance, the camera is drawn to caged birds (her husband’s) and her alcohol stash. Unfortunately, in the process of avoiding her husband, something quite vile happens to Suna—something I won’t name explicitly, but it’s likely easy to guess.
There’s something quite staged about the composition of images in Suna. In one shot early on, the married couple is shown in conversation, framed by a doorway at the top of the second-floor balcony, from an equivalent perspective across the fictitious horizontal plane. It’s staged. That’s not to say it’s more theatrical than cinematic; it isn’t. Veysel stands on the side of the door still inside the house, Suna sits on the other side in the open air. The framing of the door as a division only works from precisely the exact place where cinematographer Ersan Çapan’s camera is already placed. This beautifully composed full shot doesn’t fully capture the degree to which Sezgin carefully and thoughtfully composes each frame. Making use of little camera movement and quite a bit of depth focus, Suna doesn’t necessarily scream “notice me!” but it’s certainly crafted with the care of thoughtful and creative artists.
And Suna only works because of how lofty Nurcan Eren is as the lead. With every new character she meets, Eren meets the challenge to begin from scratch. Every single relationship in the film requires something else from Eren: sometimes fearful, sometimes confident, sometimes insecure, sometimes lost. Without every bit of her notable performance, Suna is nothing.
dir. Çiğdem Sezgin
Part of the 2023 Boston Turkish Film Festival
Joshua Polanski Hi!
As the director of Suna I’d like hear more about the movie…