Güven (Trust): a dark movie narrating complexities in human relations

Güven (Trust) opens with a view of a small peninsula; waves are crashing against the rocky base of cliffs, the tops of which are covered with buildings that seem like they’re about to slide into the sea.

The camera descends from the sky to a house, focusing on a young woman’s face. Meryem is gathering lettuce from a flowerbed. A breeze and the distant sound of thunder startle her. She nervously looks at the sky and calls out to her husband, “Ali, put the buckets out! It’s about to rain!”

This small working-class family lives in a house with a roof like a sieve. The water leaking into their closets leaves their clothes wet.

The house and roof are so full of holes that they can’t be protected. Ali has promised he’ll get it taken care of, but Meryem doesn’t believe him, because she’s heard this promise one too many times before..

Ali is the kind of man who can’t get the roof fixed, but he can put buckets underneath to catch the water. He can’t cultivate the lettuce, but he walks in the flowerbed. He has a taste for voyeurism. What’s more, he works in security, but can’t be trusted.

The one weakness of the movie Güven (Trust) that it really overdoes the concept of safety, security, and trust (güven in Turkish). The characters repeatedly display their feelings about trust and insecurity, and the dialogue deals with the concept.

It’s as though the title of the film isn’t enough for the audience to understand the theme, which is drilled in repeatedly as the film unfolds, dealing with various notions of trust.

From the film’s opening sequence to the ironic way the final sequence connects to the opening, the audience is watching a dark film in which Ali (Bülent Çolak) and Meryem (Gözde Cığacı) will test each other’s trust.

Güven starts out with diverse passions but continues with various ploys, and the film tries to unravel a murder and the mystery of a love triangle, following a fight about jealousy and possessiveness. There is nothing sacred in this movie, and it relies on Marxist and feminist approaches as well as family theory to develop a subtle critique within the subtext.

After the rainstorm, Ali and Meryem put on their wet clothes on and go to a dinner and music show organized by Ali’s security company. A local artist, known as the popstar of Zonguldak, appears on the stage. “Are we having fun?” he asks the guests. Meryem, laughingly screams out, “Yeeeeees!”.  Despite her clownish makeup, she looks attractive in her dark blue dress.

Although the film takes place in a small town among a small circle of people, the setting is the relatively open-minded north-western city of Zonguldak.

We find out that Ali receives sexual pleasure from his voyeurism, and we learn that his marriage to Meryem was not out of love, but out of Meryem’s desperation and Ali’s opportunism. The topic of  “honour,” however, never comes up.

We discover that Meryem’s older brother rejected her after she got pregnant while away in school, and that she does not have a close relationship with her sister.

After an evening of entertainment, Meryem’s serenity disappears, and the evening’s merriment fades away the moment her friend Esra (Feride Çetin) tells Meryem that Ferit (Ahmet Kaynak), the father of Meryem’s child and ex-lover, has turned up in town.

Ferit arrives with a sewage truck and a plan to search for a buried treasure. He gets Ali to be his partner in crime and gives him the sewage truck. He brings his son gifts and tries to win Meryem’s trust, but Ferit’s true goal and the things that happen to him make up the crux of the film.

The buried treasure and the sewage truck work as interesting symbols in the film, of the empty dreams of people who want to get rich quick looking for a treasure.

The film might be tipping its hat to Turkish director Yılmaz Güney’s masterpiece Umut (Hope), but doesn’t directly reference it in the characters or events.

It’s not clear if Ferit is trying to set a trap for Ali or if he really is part of a conspiracy that extends to the highest officials. The sewage truck that empties cesspools is, in the end, a metaphor for cleaning up filth.

Symbols and metaphor are central in Güven. A dark atmosphere is created in the way the characters’ words and behaviour are depicted, along with cinematographer Feza Çaldıran’s impressive cinematography showing the grey sky and sea, the rain, and Zonguldak’s high, menacing cliffs. Just as the waves crash against the shore and erode it away, the people feel as though they’re being eaten away by doubt.

Meryem, like her religious namesake Mary, is a woman living in a patriarchal society who won’t give up her right to make choices. In a patriarchal society, decision-making belongs to men, and men decide whether to reject or accept, to give or take, and to marry or divorce; in exchange, men can take property without any legal rights to it, and there is no man who will do anything good without looking to gain something for himself.

Meryem was abandoned by the man she loved while pregnant with his child. In order to survive, she married a man who was taking advantage of her difficult situation. Her older brother won’t have anything to do with her. There’s little opportunity for her to take any initiative in her own life and, as her elderly neighbour (Sabriye Kara) says, one of these opportunities is giving her husband sexual pleasure.

The film’s Marxist and feminist criticisms of the institution of the family are revealed by Güven’s exploration in vivid detail of how women are shackled by their lack of choices within society and the family as well as their lack of economic freedom.

The metaphor of the roof that can’t be fixed for lack of money shows how this inequality destroys the sanctity of the family.

When Meryem and Esra meet up, Ali asks Meryem, “Do you have any money?” and she says, “Esra paid,” which is fine because Esra works, in a managerial position at that. Meryem criticises Esra while speaking to Ali, saying, “It’s like she’s the boss of the world,” but her actual criticism of her friend is that she would like to have enough money to be able to fix their own leaky roof.

In the end, Meryem unexpectedly gets hold of a small amount of money that changes her life, which is not a surprising climax in the context of a dark movie, but it’s a complete surprise within the narrative of the film.

The clashes between Ali and his childhood friend Ferit (neither of whom is trying to the alpha male) are revealed in an ironic way. When Ferit talks to Ali about marrying Meryem and raising Ferit’s child as his own, he says, “You sure pulled a fast one on me.” When giving Ali the sewage truck in exchange for convincing the owner of the field where the treasure supposedly lay to let them dig, Ferit says by way of threat, “In this life, no one can take anything from me, but they take what I give.”

“She took me in, she trusted me; I didn’t take anything of yours,” Ali says to Ferit later on.

When Meryem opposes their criminal partnership, Ferit asks, “He’s my childhood friend, what is there not to trust?” and she replies, “What more does there need to be?” Lines like these draw attention to the danger of this unnecessary convergence.

Director Sefa Öztürk keeps the audience’s curiosity alive by steadily ramping up the tension through events and characters, and Serkan Keskin’s stunning-as-always performance as a police commissioner also adds to the narrative.

Special mention must be made of Feza Çaldıran, who, in her first time behind the camera, displays a woman’s strength and brings a feminine eye to the film.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial perspective of Ahval.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

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