#878 Law of the Border
1966 // Turkey // Lüfti Ö. Akad
Criterion Collection (LINK)
The Turkish film Law of the Border, restored by the World Cinema Foundation, has been rescued from perishment and now has the best possible quality it could have as it’s the only know copy to survive the Turkis Coup d’Etat in 1980. Even with all the decay and scratches, the film still retains a tremendous vitality underlining its amalgamation of western action set pieces and the neorealism socioeconomic depiction of the periphery life in Turky. Indeed the story, written by director Lüfti Ö. Akad from a draft by Yılmaz Güney the lead actor himself, is about the periphery human deserted by the social structure struggling for their own survival; geographically, the story takes place at the Syria-Turkish border, a desolated, infertile land at the periphery of the country.
Yılmaz Güney, an up and coming action star and a future controversial director, takes the lead character role, Hıdır, a man with a young son who earns the living by smuggling across the mines-filled border. Lieutenant Zeki (Atilla Ergün), a civilised rational military man, is recently assigned to control the border after his predecessor was shot during confrontation with the smugglers. He, with the help of a young female teacher Ayşe (Pervin Par), intends to build a school for the villagers while he persuades the local landlord Duran (Muharrem Gürses) to open the unused fertile land for sharecropping. The introverted unsung hero Hıdır, at first repels the lieutenant’s idea, but eventually submits to the transformation for the sake of his son Yusuf’s (Hikmet Olgun) education.
Predictably, the harsh world and human cruelty obstruct the reformation, conflict is then emerged between Hıdır and the rival smuggler Ali Cello (Erol Taş, who plays the despicable antihero Osman in Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer) who plots with the land owner Duran, resulting a spaghetti western style final showdown. Hıdır’s dilemma is not easy to be identified at the beginning as I’m unfamiliar with the political and social landscape in that period of time, nonetheless Yılmaz Güney is deeply affecting in playing a reticent survivor and a caring father. Hıdır’s comradeship with Lieutenant Zeki is first born out of submission and grew to be mutual respect, and every decisions of his are made in considering the best possible future for his son which is symbolic to Turkey’s prospect.
The film has the humanitarian ground with the social and political commentary, which is unfortunately diluted and distracted by the exuberant shootings in the last act. Law of the Border does not impress me as much as Dry Summer did with its ferocity, but I’m more than happy to watch a film with Yılmaz Güney, and hopefully more Turkish films would be rescued from the inaccessibility and see the light once more.