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Movie Review: Veda by Zulfu Livaneli

November 22, 2010

Turkey, as a country, as a nation, does some things very good and some things not quite as good. Bus transportation is very much on the former end of the spectrum. Intercity buses are cheap, safe, and very comfortable. You can get to the Otogar early and play bus companies off of each other to get the best deal. You get tea/water/soft drink service once you’re on the bus. Many companies or stations have a free service that’ll take you to the middle of whatever town your visiting (but apparently not Istanbul if you get there late…in fact, none of this article could be said for EfeTur). Also on the buses are personal televisions built into the back of each seat. So you get your choice of a few television stations or movie channels on the bus. This is, most certainly, a good thing.

On the Afyon – Bursa route I took last week, I was flipping through Twilight and 500 Days of Summer looking for far toothier fare. And then I saw Sinan Tuzcu’s steely glare, and I knew I found my match.


That’s a lot of Ataturks!

Veda came out in 2010, the product of a lot of money and Zulfu Livaneli’s artistic mind. Livaneli is a great composer and musician, but less experienced in film making. And Veda was part of a trio of Ataturk-themed movies that came out, along with Dersimiz, Ataturk and Mustafa. It caused a big enough ruckus when it came out, but what’s it like as a movie? I took two hours to find out.

First off, be squared away: this is a hagiography. Do not expect some sort of unflinching documentary here, the film is just another medium to glorify Ataturk. Go in with that expectation, and you’ll come out alright.

Veda reminded me, mostly, of church art, like a Renaissance mural. It’s a beautiful piece of work that mostly tell a story you already know. So you have beautiful set pieces, amazing costumes, and war scenes stolen from Caravaggio:

As a war movie, it’s great. Everyone is costumed up, good guys are clearly labeled and never die, and bad guys are just kind of a faceless horde. The World War I scenes and the “Ottoman bros hanging out” scenes were probably the best in the movie, including the scenes in Tripoli. I wish there was more expository on this, because there are some pretty awesome bits missing: Ataturk fighting the Italians, etc. Also missing: Ataturk’s days with a wicked, wicked, moustache:

Other parts are…not quite as good. Most of the talkie scenes in the movie are generally just a few moments of expository for Ataturk then to make a Pronouncement. It can be fun to watch, but sometimes hard to follow. Much like looking at church paintings without memorizing the Gospel. Kasim Pasha shows up (which is another thing: it’s fun to remember that all these neighborhoods and all are named after real people), they talk government, and then BOOM we’re suddenly discussing why Turkey needs the Latin Alphabet. And then, exunt Kasim Pasha, not to be seen again.

Again, it’s not a story, more of a mural. You see different vignettes, but it is the story of Ataturk’s life, not the story of Ataturk, if that makes any sense. We don’t see WHY he did what he did, only that he did them. There’s plenty of doting on his mother and sister, to be sure, but little expository on who they are as people. There’s a rash of suicides in the movie: one of those times when you, the watcher, are just positive that’ll be the last one and then here comes another one. I think I actually mumbled to myself, a la Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, “Oi! Will everyone stop getting shot!

The actors, it should be said, all fill their roles nicely, especially considering most are just window dressing. You need an impressive actor to play Ataturk, of course, and Veda uses four. Teenage Ataturk has an impressive sneer that I’m sure the real teenage Mustafa Kemal had as well, and Dizi star Sinan Tuzu does a great job holding down the movie and being as larger-than-life as possible. He was made up to look quite like Ataturk; impressive considering that in real life he’s kind of a goofy looking (in a good way), dark-haired sort of Antepli:

That said, the set pieces are beautiful, the period costumes are beautiful, and the score is beautiful. There’s a lot to like, especially as travel fare, when you’re looking less for some challenging, emotional, stuff and more for just…a story that’ll take a couple of hours. And it also made me want to go back to fin de siecle Selanik, but then again, I think a lot of things do.

Veda is a great way to spend two hours, fill in some blanks in your knowledge of early Republican history, and gawk at how well-dressed everyone was in 1890’s Selanik. It hardly Raises Troubling Questions or Opens Rare Windows, but it’s good entertainment.



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