Aidiyet

Belonging
Burak Çevik
2019

09.02.2019 20:00 Eng. subtitles Kino Arsenal 1
12.02.2019 22:15 Eng. subtitles Cubix 9
14.02.2019 13:45 Eng. subtitles CineStar 8
17.02.2019 22:30 Eng. subtitles Kino Arsenal 1

72 min. Turkish.

Aidiyet is a contemporary thriller that maps out a criminal case, though it’s the very opposite of a genre film. In a voice-over delivered in the sober tone of a confession, a man reconstructs the murder of his future mother-in-law. Acting on the wishes of her daughter, his lover, he hired a contract killer to murder her because she opposed their relationship. All that the film shows are the many locations that make up the tragedy: a tidy apartment, the bus station in Ankara, the parking lot, the hallway, the murder victim’s bed… On the way back to Istanbul, the motorway by night becomes a screen onto which the terrible inner torment of someone with a life on his conscience is projected. Then the film changes perspective and shows how the lovers met and what preceded the bloody deed. These seemingly harmless images and conversations become charged by the viewer’s prior knowledge, as if in a psychosis. Why did the mysterious Pelin hate her parents so much? That’s a question the film doesn’t answer. In Aidiyet, Burak Çevik conducts an elegant, exciting, and instinctual experiment with the detective impulses of his audience. (Dorothee Wenner)

Burak Çevik was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1993. He completed his studies in Film and Television at Istanbul Bilgi University in 2016. After his debut, Tuzdan kaide, Aidiyet is his second feature-length film.

Family tragedy, a thriller, and a road movie

In 2003, my grandmother was murdered in her apartment. My aunt and her lover were sentenced to life imprisonment after the trial. I was 10 years old when it happened. During the 15 years that followed, I never thought that this could be an important story and I did not think it would be worth telling – every person and every family has their own tragedy, and mine is just one of them.
Two years ago, I got hold of the court records by chance, and I read the indictment from beginning to end. I realised that this was not only a criminal case, but also a love story and a road movie. A love chronicle that encompasses three big Turkish cities and which left its mark in many places.
Looking back at it now, I realise that this is also my story, a story that has to do with my roots and which I need to confront.
When I was preparing AIDIYET, I was thinking of Eric Rohmer’s films about romantic relationships and of James Benning’s LANDSCAPE SUICIDE, which tells a crime story by going to different places. AIDIYET is a film that seeks out the memories of places and plays with genre. It is based on a very personal tragedy with the archetypes of a true crime, which the film traces without casting judgment. (Burak Çevik)

Conversation with Burak Çevik: “I am convinced that spaces have their own memories”

Gabriela Seidel-Hollaender: AIDIYET is based on the confrontation with a criminal case that is also part of the tragic story of your own family. You read the criminal file of your grandmother’s murder case in which your aunt and her partner were sentenced to life imprisonment. What other research did you do, who else did you talk to while preparing the film?

Burak Çevik: When I received the investigation files two years ago, I read them very carefully. I found the missing pieces in the autopsy reports and other files. While reading, I immediately remembered some of these places from my childhood and felt the urge to visit them again. I am convinced that spaces have their own memories. For me, making a film does not mean presenting the results of an investigation. I do not make a film to reach a conclusion. It is all about doing research, asking many questions and penetrating deeper into the matter. AIDIYET could therefore be read as a personal archaeological study. While developing the concept for the film, I was in touch with three people. Most of all, I discussed with Selman Nacar how the story could be shaped and brought to life. I visited the shooting locations with our production designer Dilşad Aladağ, discussing the memories of these places. Finally, with our sound designer Yalın Özgencil, I developed the sound of these spaces.

This story is also part of your own history, which you wanted to confront and work through. Did you have any doubts or scruples about approaching this story cinematically?

You cannot easily understand the effects of a family tragedy when you are a child, that is quite normal. You repress, ignore and hide it in different ways. I know it because it happened to me. But you cannot avoid it. Perhaps this movie was an opportunity to face these things I have been avoiding. The places from my childhood that I had never visited had been in my mind for a long time. They were blurry and unclear memories. And suddenly one day I decided to go to my grandmother’s house, where the murder took place. I cannot remember what drove me there, but when I entered I got stuck in front of the stairs, I did not dare go upstairs. I asked myself, ‘Why am I returning to this place?’ I did not ask, ‘Why am I here?’ It was a question that I could not answer, but that I could confront. It was similar with the investigation files: once that door was open, I could find out what was behind it. While reading the files, I tried to put myself into the suspects’ shoes and see the events from their point of view. After all these years, having now visited all these places from my childhood and read all the investigation files, it is clear to me that this story is also my story.

I got the impression that you had constructed the film in layers that allow you to immerse yourself deeper and deeper into the matter, like in a research project. In what stages did you create the concept of the film?

When I read the investigation file, I realised that this was not only a criminal case, but also a love story and a road movie. A love chronicle that encompasses three big Turkish cities and which left its mark in many places. I remember wondering how I could make a movie out of such a bloody murder story without casting judgement on the protagonists. It was at this point that I got the idea of experimenting with genre. I wanted to take the audience on a journey that starts at a crime scene, in a ‘landscape of true crime’, and then develops into a romantic story.
In developing the concept, I focused on the relationship between the image that the audience sees and the information they have about the story. How does ‘information’ affect our experience of watching a film? Do we watch a couple’s first romantic night differently if we know that they will later plan a bloody murder? With these thoughts in mind, I tried to represent the act of remembering through cinematic means. In that sense, AIDIYET is a film about memory.

The film comprises two distinct styles: on the one hand, there is the level of reconstruction, which shows the locations where the event takes place. This is combined with the text spoken by your aunt’s lover, which could be an excerpt from the criminal file. And then there are also staged scenes, which show the young couple in love. How did this combination of two styles come about?

The biggest inspiration for the first part was James Benning’s 1987 film LANDSCAPE SUICIDE. The film makes spatial observations based on the records of a real murder story. Benning’s films about the relationship between the object and the viewer have always been an inspiration for me. For the second part of the film, I oriented myself on Eric Rohmer’s films that are based on romantic relationships and feature a lot of dialogue. These are films that I have been watching since I was a child. Unlike most recent Turkish films, which are full of social and political conflicts and grapple with big themes, from the beginning my wish was to narrate a couple’s first night, when they talk about sweet nothings. I believe in the magic of the night when a couple meets for the first time.
I am interested in exchanges between characters that reveal something about their worldviews, while also including trivial themes. I am fascinated by the way characters oscillate between being shy and wanting to tell everything about themselves.

Why did you chose to give your aunt’s lover a voice-over, but not your aunt?

As you mentioned, the film consists of two parts. As I was writing the second part, I realised that I felt closer to my aunt. Therefore, it was only fair to use the man’s confession in the first part. In this way, I hoped to bring two different perspectives into the film. When I first read the two statements, I had the impression that the man’s relationship with the places was more intense than the woman’s. I do not know exactly why this is the case, but it could have been due to his sense of guilt or perhaps it was an expression of his paranoia. He described all the places from memory down to the smallest detail. He was constantly recreating these places in his memory.

The soundtrack of the first part is composed in a way that draws the viewer into the action and builds up enormous tension. What were your specifications for the sound and score of the film?

Mine Pakel composed the music for the first part. We titled the composition, which is 25 minutes long, ‘All the Tired Horses’. Mine paid particular attention to the music’s function as sound design that is connected to the places in the film. The atmospheric sounds of all the places were recreated and combined with the music. Thus, all the atmospheric and Foley sounds are part of the music itself. Our references included important avant-garde composers like İlhan Mimaroğlu, Tim Hecker, William Basinski and Alvin Lucier.

At one point in the first part, there is a split screen with images that look like they came from a surveillance camera. What were your criteria for choosing the shooting locations and what material did you use?

Most of the locations are those from the investigation file. The main idea for the film was to visit these locations 15 years after the crime and create a crime story by using the suspects’ interviews. We thought long and hard about how we could transform these locations into a visually striking experience. One of the most important questions was how we could introduce to the audience, on a 25-minute journey, shots of locations where no one could be seen. With the DP, Barış Aygen, we thought through every composition and every lighting situation, coming up with a step-by-step journey in the characters’ minds. We used a specific, partly surreal kind of lighting, as well as an atmospheric soundscape, which increases the suspense and shapes the mood of the film. I always wanted to make a film that plays with space and time. I wanted to convey an experience rooted in memory, in the act of remembering.

(Interview: Gabriela Seidel-Hollaender, January 2019)

Production Burak Çevik, Selman Nacar, Mustafa Uzuner, Kerem Ayan. Production companies Fol Film (Istanbul, Turkey), Kuyu Film (Istanbul, Turkey), Acéphale (Montreal, Canada), Kerem Ayan (Paris, France). Written and directed by Burak Çevik. Cinematography Barış Aygen. Editing Burak Çevik, Ali Aga. Music Mine Pakel. Sound design Yalın Özgencil. Sound Ahmet Gürbüz. Production design Dilşad Aladağ. Costumes Dilşad Aladağ. With Çağlar Yalçınkaya (Onur), Eylül Su Sapan (Pelin).

World sales Fol Film
Premiere February 09, 2019, Forum

Films

2018: Tuzdan Kaide / The Pillar of Salt (70 min., Forum 2018). 2019: Aidiyet / Belonging.

Photo: © Kuyu Film