Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hasan Karacadag's D@bbe (2006)

Historically, Turkish cinema has only produced a handful of horror films. However, in the last decade, a few more have appeared, and within that few, some have been successful at the box office. One of the successful productions to emerge from recent Turkish horror cinema is Hasan Karacadag's D@bbe (2006), which attracted, according to Giovanni Scognamillo, six to seven hundred thousand viewers in its native country. Karacadag was educated in cinema in Japan, and according to his biography at the IMDb, he was successful in the Land of the Rising Sun. D@bbe shows a strong influence from Japanese horror cinema fused with Islamic culture, especially its mythology and religion.
Karacadag's film is clearly influenced by Japanese horror director, Hideo Nakata, whose film The Ring (1998) attracted a wide international audience and created a huge boom in Asian horror cinema. Perhaps the best film to come from this boom is Kiyoshi Kurosawa's woefully underseen and underappreciated Kairo (2001), and it would be an understatement to say that Karacadag was influenced by Kurosawa's masterpiece. The narrative of D@bbe is nearly identical to Kairo with Karacadag mimicking Kurosawa's cinematic style and tone, even reproducing some of Kurosawa's compositions.Hande (Ebru Aykac), Cem (Serdar Ozer), and Sema (Fulya Candemir) are three young friends who work together at a pottery store. Their friend, Tarik (Serhat Yigit), has become suddenly withdrawn from work and their company. Sema has recently rebuffed his advances, yet Hande and Cem think something deeper is going on. Tarik has been locked up in his house for the last four days, since he installed an internet connection. Hande decides to visit Tarik to retrieve her digital video camera that she loaned to Tarik and to check up on him. At his home, Tarik is withdrawn and sullen. His home is in a shambles, with newspaper taped all over the walls. Before leaving Tarik, Hande looks into his room, where Tarik has killed himself by putting a large butcher knife through his throat. Kairo is an aloof film and is filled with aloof characters: a perfect style for a film about loneliness and shyness and the lack of human connection (Kairo, also known as Pulse, literally means circuit). Karacadag mimics Kairo's aloofness with his characters and his style, yet his narrative lacks the richness and subtle complexity of Kurowsawa's. Karacadag opts for a more traditional, linear, and focused narrative, focused primarily upon Hande and her investigation behind Tarik's death and the mysterious circumstances involving the internet and a recent outbreak of suicides all over the world. Hande's storyline is intercut with a sometimes intersecting storyline involving a homicide detective, Suleyman (Umit Acar), who is officially investigating Tarik's suicide (?). The story plays out like a traditional deductive mystery (with the biggest clue being the symbol, "388@0"), so D@bbe's detached style does not add to any depth or complexity to the narrative. Rather, it only slightly enhances a more arty, contrived style of filmmaking and enhances, at times effectively, the ethereal horror scenes. The horror scenes within D@bbe are where the film excels, as Karacadag is able to conjure quite a bit of infectious fear from his characters (and in the viewer) with his supernatural scenes. The source of the supernatural comes from the Koran, specifically the Dabbe and the Jinni. Like Kairo, as D@bbe progresses, all of the supernatural occurrences lead to something darker, cataclysmic, and, hence, apocalyptic within the world. Creatively, Karacadag ties it to the religion of his native country. Whereas Kurosawa went for a disorienting and fearful effect with his supernatural scenes, the demon jinni within D@bbe are more confrontational and aggressive. When characters encounter the jinni within D@bbe, the scenes are oppressive and overwhelming. Cem's encounter with a spirit within a abandoned building is effective (despite it being evocative and a predictable rendition of a scene within Kairo); and Hande's journey through the streets at night as dark spirits materialize around her, although a short glimpse of a scene, is well rendered and in its way, quite beautiful.

The objective facts within the first paragraph, except where noted within, are from Cine-historian, Giovanni Scognamillo's interview on the Onar Films DVD release of Oluler Konusmaz Ki/Aska Susayanlar Seks ve Cinayet. Scognamillo also co-authored with Pete Tombs the essay on Turkish cinema in the latter's essential Mondo Macabro.

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