Turkish classic Vesikali Yarim (1968) (informal English title: My Prostitute Love) is a romantic and tragic love story that works because of fine structure, layered performances, and beautiful music.
3.5 out of 4 stars
The Language of Love
From the beginning, most of the time we see Halil (a brooding and intense Izzet Günay), he is busy with his business as a greengrocer. How much the film shows about Halil is really important for its construction. When he is not working, he is having a good time with his friends in bars. The joints are shady but have great music. In one such bar, Halil comes across Sabiha. For him its love at first sight. Sabiha is playful, but there is an underlying melancholy in her. The world hasn’t been good to her. The bruises of her life have taught her not to be naive. She takes her time before falling in love.
The first part of the film evokes joy through the way the two play off each other. There is a strong emotional undercurrent. The language of the interplay is completely physical. The rhythm reaches its peak when the two finally hold each other’s hands in an empty street. By then, they have established striking chemistry between them that will hold the rest of the film together. People say that in a love story, it is the chemistry between the couple that forms the heart. This film nails that theory.
a romantic and tragic love story
Trouble starts when Sabiha hears something about Halil. This is where the film’s guarding of Halil’s life comes into play. Sabiha works at a bar and has led a life of questionable moralities. But she is an open book. Perhaps this is what the film is trying to portray. It is the man’s honesty that should be questioned and not the woman’s character. The ambiguity about Halil’s life acts as a hook that keeps the film engaging in its middle part. It also provides the opportunity to showcase some insightful writing. Sabiha’s struggle is multi-layered. She has to come to terms with the fear that what she has heard might be true. She has to bear the pain of Halil’s dishonesty. Also, she has to get to the truth without upsetting Halil, who after all, might be innocent.
Such layered writing helps the lead actors to create multi-dimensional characters. As the script starts slipping in the last part, it is the performances of these stars that sail it through. As Sabiha, Türkan Soray seamlessly evokes the different shades of a character not easy to play. She is flamboyant but never exaggerated. When in pain, her silence screams. There is a good reason her nickname in Turkish cinema is ‘Sultan’. This film also gave her her second best actress award at the Antalya Film Festival, one of the most important film festivals in Turkey. As Halil, Izzet Günay is tough and intense. But when he turns soft, he convinces everyone, including Sabiha. We can hardly believe that he can lie.
The film’s strategy of holding the truth till the end works because of this. Few romantic films have such an unusual yet harshly true ending. By then the beautiful songs in the background echo in our heads. Even though the language is unfamiliar, the feeling is the same.