In the spirit of Helen Keller, the Turkish film, BENIM DÜNYAM (My World) gives vision and colour to a world lived in black. BENIM DÜNYAM was inspired by the 2005 Indian film, BLACK.
Beren Saat plays deaf and blind Elâ growing up in the 1950s on the Istanbul island of Büyükada (Big Island). We are first introduced to Elâ, as a child, played by Melis Mutluç. Once her illness has been discovered during her infancy, Elâ’s mother, Handan Hanım, (Ayça Bingöl) is so distraught, she caters to Elâ’s every whim, allowing her unfettered access to the home. Elâ even knocks over her newborn baby sister, Ayla (Hazar Ergüçlü), while playing with her. Little does she realize this laissez-faire attitude is actually harming Elâ’s chances to learn, to progress, to join everyday society. Elâ is a bird caught in a gilded cage, with maids, and luxury living, but unable to fly, she whimpers and flails about, in an emotional blur. Unable to speak, to hear, to know, she is powerless. Yet, beneath her weakness, lies a precious humanity she has yet to access.
Handan Hanım, who, exhausted and confused on how to care for her disabled daughter, and faced with an demand from her husband, Refik Bey, to send Elâ to an institution, eventually seeks out a well-known speech therapy professor, Mahir Hoca (Uğur Yücel, who also directed the film). A man touched by his own struggles is not what they expect from an esteemed teacher. Elâ is wild, ferocious, and left to her devices, feeling her way through the world with no direction. They have come to see Mahir Hoca as their final hope. And yet, it is Elâ, who is his last hope.
Their raging inner turmoils are triggered by each other. At dinner time, Elâ roams from each person plate, as they chatter, oblivious to her digging her hands into their rice. She throws glasses, accidentally stabs people with forks, or slaps people in the face. She grunts out sounds as sentences. Her parents have strung donkey bells around her neck so they don’t lose her. Seeing this, Mahir Hoca is infuriated that she is permitted to act so anti-socially, and that she has been, unintentionally, turned into animal, of sorts. And so begins Mahir Hoca’s unorthodox teaching lessons. Her parents are, at first, shocked at the strict order he has decreed. Refik Bey is insistent he leave, but soon understands a connection is building between Mahir Hoca and his new student, Elâ. One of which no one wants to hinder.
A part of their deep bond is that Elâ becomes a conduit to a past of regret and painful memories. He sees in Elâ a chance to relive a memory and change its outcome. Sometimes a desire to teach becomes a desire to be taught. Mahir Hoca gives Elâ the possibility to live a life her parents were convinced she would never have. Saat’s performance as Elâ is beguiling. BENIM DÜNYAM’s dialogue is rich, though, at times, borders overly dramatic. Elâ reveals herself as a tenacious and wise young woman. A line that describes her inner dialogue best, ‘‘For me, every drop of water is an ocean.’’
Not only a story of redemption, failure and heartbreak, BENIM DÜNYAM, is also a story of women, mothers, and sisters, teachers and friends. These elaborately concocted characters keep running into, actual, and metaphorical, walls. It is a story of those certain they were to drown in the darkness, but are pulled from these depths into a dawning light, far more brilliant than they could have ever dreamed.
When Elâ has earned an ice cream cone for her studies, Mahir Hoca says, ‘‘Life is like ice cream, we need to enjoy it before it melts away.’’ It is this urgency to live in colour, even when you cannot always see the colours, that beats throughout the film. With all this talk of light and darkness, Elâ and her sister, Ayla’s names also speak of colors, Elâ means hazel-colored, and Ayla refers to cloudy, rainy moonlight and an angelic halo.
For the film trailer, visit here
Film Review by: Asli Omur
Asli Omur is Writer, Journalist, Photographer, Observer, Researcher, Academic, Film Reviewer, Blogger, Freelancer, Reporter.