HurriyetDailyNews.com - Emrah Güler  - 13 Mar 2011


Turkish inmates get new faces in 72nd Cell


Revered writer Orhan Kemal’s 1954 classic play, ‘72. Koğuş’ (The Prisoners), has been adapted to the screen for the first time in over two decades. While the female inmate Fatma gets a bigger role with prolific actress and diva Hülya Avşar, director Murat Saraçoğlu’s film regrettably fails to capture the heart and soul of Kemal’s original work

One of the most acclaimed works of Orhan Kemal, '72. Koğuş' (The Prisoners), makes its journey to the screen for the second time.

One of the greatest Turkish writers and a modernist pioneer of the Turkish novel, Orhan Kemal, has always been relevant. Kemal’s realist novels on class differences and the poor side of Turkey have left their mark on a period spanning two decades after the early 1950s, now thought of as the golden period in Turkish literature.

Meeting another great literary name, the “romantic revolutionary” Nazım Hikmet, in prison in the early 1940s had a profound effect on Kemal’s literary foray and social politics. He began writing poetry and stories, eventually trying his craft in novels and plays. Kemal was one of the first authors to write about the working class, the alienation of immigrants in big cities, mass urbanization and the changing social structure of Turkey after World War II. He shed a realist light and took a brutal look at poor people living in dignity. Kemal’s stories, novels and plays also lent a voice to working-class women for perhaps the first time in modern Turkish literature.

Now, one of his most acclaimed works, “72. Koğuş” (The Prisoners), is making its journey to the screen for the second time. Kemal’s 1954 play was first made into a movie in 1987, with the late Erdoğan Tokatlı in the director’s chair and veteran actors Kadir İnanır and Halil Ergün in the leads. In 2011, Murat Saraçoğlu directs Yavuz Bingöl, Kerem Alışık and diva Hülya Avşar as inmates in “The 72nd Cell,” the original title of the play.

Set in World War II, the film stars Bingöl as “Captain” Ahmet of Rize, a prisoner who has been inside for 10 years for murdering his father’s murderers, and Alışık as Berbat, a prisoner for life who’s been convicted for everything from murder and extortion to gambling. Things take a turn for the inmates when the captain receives a huge sum of money from his forgotten and aging mother. In the intricate power dynamics of the prison, Captain’s role changes as he helps out friends and foes alike with the money.

The screenplay by Ayfer Tunç, a popular female novelist of a younger generation, takes the women’s cell, barely seen in the original play, and makes it an integral part of the film. Avşar plays Fatma, in for 22 years for having killed her father-in-law for attempting to rape her. Fatma’s small role as the Captain’s object of affection in the play and the first adaptation becomes a bigger, more crucial character in the 2011 adaptation.