BLISS —Turkish title Mutluluk—didn’t make any ripple in the US, barely scratching up $40,349 two years after it premiered in Europe, but the affecting 2007 drama did fairly well abroad prior to that, raising its gross to $3,605,671. Featuring a completely winning performance from lovely Özgü Namal, the condemnation of the barbarous practice of “honor killing” was adapted from a international best-selling novel by Zülfü Livaneli. *
Young ‘Miryem’ (Namal, 28) is found unconscious near her village in central Turkey. She’s been raped, and therefore is no longer “pure”: ancient tradition demands she be killed to restore ‘family honor’. The traumatized father can’t do it, the witch of a stepmother won’t sully herself, so the task is given to her male cousin ‘Cemal’ (Murat Han, 32). The deed will be done in Istanbul, but when it comes time, the former soldier can’t do it. Now they’re both in a fix. On the run from the cruel village muhtar, they fatefully cross paths with retired college professor ‘Irfan’ (Talat Bulut, 51), who invites them to crew his yacht while he sails about the Mediterranean coast. His good nature and modern outlook bring some badly needed light to each of them, but there is still a residual an amount of darkness to be dealt with.
The character of Cemal is somewhat hard to deal with—as written, though he’s well-played by newcomer Han, in his debut role. But Bulut’s patient and kindly professor is most welcome and the captivating and naturalistic Namal immediately seizes attention and respect as the victimized Miryem. Popular in Turkey, if she was from France or Italy she’d quite likely be an international star. It’s beautifully photographed; locations include Istanbul, Bodrum, Marmaris and the town of Taskale in the Karaman province of central Anatolia.
With Mustafa Avkiran (the vile village Head Dinosaur, begging for decapitation with whatever sharp thing you can grab), Sebnem Köstem (the coolly merciless stepmother), Lale Mansur (the professor’s fed-up wife), Emin Gürsoy (the distraught father) and Leyla Basak (the bikini-clad student visitor to the professor). 105 minutes.
* Turkish Renaissance man Zülfü Livaneli: revolutionary, exile, novelist (20 books), poet, composer of 300 songs, a ballet and assorted soundtracks, columnist and politician.