Arts & Culture

‘Memories of the Wind’ depicts Turkish tragedy through poet

Turkish film takes bold stance on 20th century conflicts with strained silence, delicate cinematography

Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 5, 2016

“Ruzgarin Hatiralari” (“Memories of the Wind)”, directed by Ozcan Alper, is a film marred by tragedy that draws the portrait of a pained society. The year is 1943 and Turkey is caught between two worlds — that of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Europe and Stalin’s impregnable U.S.S.R. The Turkish government perceives communism as a threat to its national security, but it is not under immediate control of the Nazis and battles with its political ideology.

The main character is an artist and poet named Aram who is forced to flee Istanbul because of his left-leaning political views. He finds refuge in the mountains of the Turkish-Georgian border, in the home of Mikahil, an informant for the Russians, and his younger Russian wife, Meryem.

The majority of the film’s 122 minutes is spent in these mountains that seem to trap the main character as much as they protect him. Aram is not a very talkative poet, Mikahil is stoic and Meryem’s voice is first heard only half-way through the story — such that words in this film are as scarce as they are precious. A quiet love story builds between Aram and Meryem, drawn in tacit moments and hidden longing.

None of the characters are ever fully able to express and develop their feelings and thoughts. Each finds themselves turning to another, saying their name and then — “Nothing.” The simple phrase seems to imply the character wants to express complex emotions but is unable to find the right words in that particular moment. Each unspoken word amounts to a seemingly insurmountable disconnect between characters that is truly one of the most tragic aspects of the storyline. The characters are trapped in their solitude, unable to form the human connection that they long for.

Aram’s stay in the Turkish rural countryside as he waits to be smuggled into Russia mirrors his childhood trauma. He is a man tortured by his past and his present, as the narrative reveals that Aram is a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Through a series of flashbacks, he is slowly able to weave together the scattered pieces of his bloody childhood. He uses sketching in his notebook as a medium for coping with his trauma, remembering how he and his family fled from the Turkish military. His survival of that ordeal invigorates his life through the troubling times in which the movie is set. Alper’s choice to tackle both the universally troubling times in the Second World War and the highly contested events of 1915 is incredibly bold.

“Memories of the Wind” is an ambitious film that strives to depict and denounce Turkey’s checkered past during the two world wars. Aram, a fictional character created by Alper, is a man twice targeted by his society — once as an Armenian child and later as a political black sheep. The story is told in long shots and sober lighting that no doubt reflect the dreary if not anxious times the story is set in. Violence is implied in the last quarter of the movie, but it is never gruesome as it is never fully shown. While the story progression is slow, Alper spins a veritable intrigue that ensures a viewer’s continued attention.

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