Honor Killing Ordered in Haunting Drama Damning Orthodox Islam
When 17 year-old Meryem (Ozgu Namal) is found lying unconscious by a shepherd next to a lake in the Turkish countryside, it is apparent that something venereal in nature has transpired. But rather than determine whether the intercourse was rape or consensual, there’s a rush to judgment in the village which points the blame at the young victim. This is because Meryem has been raised in an orthodox Muslim sect that holds a female responsible for protecting her virginity which, if lost out of wedlock, reflects badly on all of her relatives, even when taken by force.
In this case, Meryem’s mortified father, Tahsin (Emin Gursoy), and stepmother, Done (Sebnem Kostem), convene a family summit during which their still-dazed daughter is condemned to death in accordance with the ancient principal of tore. “You’ve sinned,” Done explains, handing her a rope with which to hang herself, adding “If you commit suicide, maybe you’ll go to heaven.”
But when Meryem balks at the request, her coldhearted Uncle Ali (Mustafa Avkiran) volunteers the hit man services of his son Cemal (Murat Han), who’s in the army. So, Cemal is summoned home to execute his own cousin, and he takes her to Istanbul to perform the honor killing.
However, as the two talk en route to the city which was once Constantinople, Cemal becomes increasingly reluctant to rationalize murdering Meryem the more he comes to suspect that her chastity had been taken against her will. Then, they are befriended by Irfan Abi (Talat Bulut) a thoroughly Westernized professor with a yacht and bikini babes who turn Cemal’s head. This unanticipated development makes the soldier feel conflicted, and even more of a foolish hypocrite for his blind adherence to such backwards ways of thinking.
Will the 21st Century schizoid man abide by the strict, Muslim moral code, or will he grant his cuz clemency at the 11th hour? That is the burning question at the center of Bliss, a haunting, cross-cultural thriller based on the incendiary best-seller “Mutluluk” by Omer Zulfu Livaneli. Visually-enchanting at every turn and expertly-executed by a gifted cast, particularly Ozgu Namal as Meryem in the picture’s pivotal role, Bliss is the damning sort of flick I fear the Taliban is likely to issue a few fatwas over.
When modernity meets the Middle Ages, something’s gotta give.
Excellent (4 stars)
In Turkish with subtitles.
Running time: 105 minutes
Studio: First Run Features