“Never my soul”: Adaptations, Re-makes and Re-imaginings of Yeşilçam Cinema – Can Yalcinkaya

Introduction

Regan is tied to her bed, articulating inhuman noises, swearing… She has scars on her face, and her hair is all over the place. She challenges the man who has come to exorcise her, with terrible profanities. The man enters her room, ordering her to be quiet, calling her a “vile creature”. He takes the holy book out of his bag, kisses it and takes it to his forehead. The book he is holding is Koran, and he is not Father Merrin. He is an Islamic cleric. The girl is not Regan, either; her name is Gül, and she suffers from the same ailment as Regan. In fact, this is not The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), but its Turkish remake, Şeytan (Satan, Metin Erksan, 1974), a film which is based on the same script as The Exorcist, with Turkish characters and an Islamic twist, and which copies the original film almost scene by scene, using the same music score.

In its heyday (roughly the period between 1950-1980), Turkish popular cinema (known as Yeşilçam[1]) made countless remakes of Hollywood films and adaptations of other Western texts, such as plays, serials, TV series, and comics. In a more loosely connected world than today’s globalised one, producers were able to evade the sanctions of copyright law, and use scenes, music, or entire scripts of foreign films freely. Turkish film scholar Nezih Erdoğan describes the films of the Yeşilçam period as having a degree of “mimicry beyond innocent inspiration” and observes that in its desperate struggle against Hollywood, Turkish cinema strived to be like Hollywood (Erdoğan 2003, 165-6).[2]

This paper looks at remaking and adaptation practices of Yeşilçam, the hybrid nature of the texts it (re)produced and the “Turkification”[3] processes they underwent. It goes on to present a case study of the film Sürtük (The Tramp, Ertem Eğilmez, 1965), as a particular re-imagining of Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (1913), and arguing that this Turkified text creates a discourse related to the idea of ‘proper Westernisation’ in accordance with the official state ideology.

Turkish Cinema and Identity

The first cinema screening in Ottoman Turkey took place in Sultan Abdülhamid II’s court in Istanbul in 1896 and the first public screening followed soon after that. Both screenings were performed by people from the West (a Frenchman named Bertrand in the former case and a Jewish man of Polish descent by the name of Sigmund Weinberg, in the latter) and cinema remained a domain dominated by Westerners until the mid-1910s (Evren 2005, 19-28).[4] There are debates concerning what the first Turkish film ever made is. Fuat Uzkınay’s 1914 documentary, Aya Stefanos’taki Rus Abidesinin Yıkılışı (The Demolotion of the Russian Monument at Aya Stephanos) had long been considered by film historians to be deserving of the title, although no actual evidence exists that it was made. Burçak Evren challenges this claim in his book Turkish Cinema, saying there were films made in Turkey before 1914 (Evren 2005, 34).

During the first years after the foundation of the Republic in 1923, Turkish filmmaking was heavily influenced by theatre in its use of texts, mise en scene, actors and sets. This period is also known as the Muhsin Ertuğrul period, as he was practically the only director making films at the time. It was not until the 1950s that filmmakers engaged themselves in the full possibilities of film art. Such significant directors as Lütfi Ömer Akad and Metin Erksan created their first films during this time. The period which concerns this  paper, Yeşilçam period, or “the Golden Age of Turkish Cinema” as it is widely known due to the number of productions released (200-300 films a year), however, would start in the 1960s and go on until mid-1970s.

During the Yeşilçam period, filmmakers produced hundreds of low-budget genre movies every year, including comedies, Westerns, action, historical, erotic, science fiction and fantasy films as well as adaptations of foreign and local comic books, with melodrama being the ever-pervasive mode in almost all of them. One characteristic of Yeşilcam cinema was that it was incredibly derivative, particularly of Hollywood productions, but also other texts, such as plays, novels, comics, and older Turkish films. Ahmet Gürata notes “[a]lmost 90 per cent of [the 301 movies produced in 1972], however, were remakes, adaptations or spin-offs” (Gürata 2006, 242).[5] Along with Şeytan, notable remakes and adaptations of the period include Turkish versions of E.T., Dracula, Tarzan, Star Trek, Superman, Rambo, and countless others.[6]

However, it would be unfair to say Yeşilçam copied Hollywood and made identical films to them. As Nezih Erdoğan points out, “Yeşilçam arbitrarily recontextualises what it steals from others” (Erdoğan 2003, 169). What Turkish remakes do is to re-imagine the original texts they refer to. A particular example of this is Üç Dev Adam (Three Giant Men, T. Fikret Uçak, 1973) in which Captain America and Santo unite against an evil and sadistic Spider-Man. Not only does this film bring together characters from different textual universes, in what could be defined as a crossover, it also presents a “What If?” scenario by turning the popular superhero Spider-Man into a villain. It turns into a postmodern text, albeit unintentionally, by using the techniques of pastiche and even détournement strategies of The Situationist International, in which texts are modified to create an oppositional meaning to the original.

Of course, Turkish filmmakers did not only re-imagine Western texts, but also re-negotiated their meanings in tune with national and cultural identity policies. In his analysis of the Turkish Star Trek remake – Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda (Tourist Ömer in Star Trek, Hulki Saner, 1973) – Iain Robert Smith talks about how this film should be read as a hybrid text within the frame of transnational media flows, rather than being considered as a mere case of plagiarism (Smith 2008, 4).[7] Turist Ömer (Sadri Alışık) is the protagonist of a series of comedy films, in which the poor, rural, and witty character Ömer travels to different places, including Istanbul, Germany, Spain, Arabia and Africa, and feels out of place in these surroundings, which is used to create humorous situations. In the final film of the series, he finds himself in the “final frontier”. The film is based on the Star Trek episode titled “The Man Trap”, in which the crew go on a planet where the resident scientist’s wife has been replaced by a dead ringer salt-sucking alien. The insertion of Turist Ömer in the Star Trek universe, according to Smith, “moves [the film] from re-creation into a more commentative mode of appropriation…The fact that he is entering into this U.S. TV show, therefore, and is poking fun at the world of Star Trek suggests a level of commentary beyond that of simple imitation” (Smith 2008, 9). Hence, the text becomes more dialogic in nature and takes a hybrid form through the re-negotiation of Western and Turkish elements.

Constantine Verevis, in his book Film Remakes, argues that one aspect of film remakes is that they are “industrial products” like film genres and the film industry copies the plots, narratives and scripts that have proved to be commercially successful over and over again (Verevis 2006, 3). This was very much the case in Turkey, as the producers were more interested in commercial success than creating a national, art cinema style. However, in order to ensure the success of remakes, the adapted texts needed to be “Turkified” to make them more accessible and familiar for Turkish audiences. According to Savaş Arslan, remakes and adaptations in Turkish cinema involved not only replacing the original characters of any given text with Turkish ones, but a process of “Turkification” (Türkleştirme), in which the text was rendered appropriate to the requirements of “a limited and pre-defined national identity and its nationalist essence” (Arslan 2005, 62).[8] This practice of Turkification often meant reflecting the ambivalent relationship Turkey has with the West.

Westernisation, Turkish Melodramas and Melancholy

“…[C]rying was an invention of the late eighteenth century” writes Joan Copjec (1999, 249), in relation to the emergence of melodrama as a new literary form.[9] She admits people of course cried before then, too, but her argument is that late eighteenth century is the first time in history when there is “a general social incitement to cry” (Copjec 1999, 249), which, she agrees with Peter Brooks (1995), is the result of a social revolution and the consequent rise of modernity. Like Brooks, she relates the emergence of melodrama to the zeitgeist of the French Revolution, and in particular, the writings of Rousseau, such as The Essay on the Origins of Language, The Confessions, Emile.

By the same token, it might be argued that crying was “invented” in Turkey in late 19th century, when the background for an immense social change was in preparation due to the efforts of Westernisation in the country.  However, in order to understand the particular narrative structures of the melodrama tradition in Turkey, we must look at an earlier tradition of storytelling in Islamic culture and in Asia Minor: the tradition of aşık hikayeleri[10], which are often stories about two lovers whose forced separation is due to circumstances beyond their control, and the (mostly painful) process of their re-union, either through marriage or through death (Moran 2004, 29).[11] Stories designed to engender tears in the audience have been popular in Turkey for centuries. Folk tales like Tahir ile Zühre, Emrah ile Selvi, and Aşık Garip, Kerem ile Aslı[12], present heartbreaking tales of star-crossed lovers and have maintained their influence through early novels published in Turkey in late 19th century and early 20th century, and later through melodramas of Yesilçam cinema.

The Westernisation movement that started during the Ottoman period was taken to a more extreme level by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey. Having abolished the sultanate and caliphate, Atatürk aimed to create a secular nation state, and “raise [it] to the level of contemporary civilisation” (Atatürk 1933).[13] The contemporary civilisation in question was the Western civilisation. Inspired by the ideas of Turkish sociologist Ziya Gökalp, Atatürk and the founding elite wanted to adopt the civilisation (medeniyet) of the West (its technology, and ideas such as democracy and secularism) and maintain the Turkish culture (hars). This aspiration created ambivalence towards the West. It was both revered and loathed as the other. In a series of radical reforms, many aspects of the culture and everyday life in Turkey, such as the alphabet and the clothing, introduction of popular sovereignty, secular state and women’s rights etc, were changed. The heritage of Ottoman Empire was regarded as ‘backwards’ and ‘corrupt’, and within this frame of thought, musical and literary traditions of the past were also subject to reforms in accordance with the modernisation policies of the state. The film industry followed suit, and the themes of Westernisation, with all the ambivalence associated with them, invaded Turkish films, particularly melodrama, which functioned as an all-pervasive mode in the industry.

According to Peter Brooks, “the origins of melodrama can be accurately located in the context of the French Revolution and its aftermath” because it is the moment when the traditional Sacred – represented by the royal family and the Church –  and a hierarchically organised society shattered, along with literary forms that depend on such a society – such as tragedy and the comedy of manners. However, as the Enlightenment period ended, there was a rising thirst for the Sacred, a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, in the form of Romanticism. Peter Brooks says Melodrama represents the urge towards resacralisation in late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The clear cut definitions of good and evil in melodrama signify “a move toward a clear nomination of a moral universe” (Brooks 1995, 14-7).[14]

Early Turkish novels of late 19th century, bearing most of the components present in aşık hikayeleri, can be said to derive from the melodramatic imagination described by Peter Brooks. The emergence of the novel in Turkey belies a social force that has been a determining factor in the politics and everyday life of the country for the past two centuries – a force that produced a ‘citizen’ that shared similarities to those of the post-French Revolution. However, the Turkish citizen was also very different to the citizen of the West. As Berna Moran says,

[w]e know that the novel did not emerge as a narrative form that gradually developed in the transition from feudality to capitalism, during the birth of the bourgeoisie and formation of individualism, as a result of historical, social and economic conditions, as it did in the West. It started with translations from and imitations of the Western novel; hence as part of Westernisation… (Moran 2004, 9).[15]

Westernisation has been a key issue in the arts and literature of Turkey since mid 19th century. Novels were the first medium in which it was heavily problematised. Ahmet Mithat Efendi’s 1876 novel Felatun Bey ile Rakim Efendi is the first novel to introduce the concept of ‘false Westernisation’ (Moran 2004, 48). The novel presents the clash between Felatun Bey, who is a degenerately Westernised ‘dandy’[16], and Rakım Efendi, who represents the ‘correct’ version of Westernisation according to Ahmet Mithat Efendi. Felatun Bey interprets Westernisation as leading an extravagant lifestyle, wearing expensive clothes and showing off in the more ‘Western’ districts of Istanbul, like Beyoglu. Rakim Efendi, on the other hand, is hardworking, thrifty and modest. The same issues – the same binary oppositions – have maintained their position in the popular imagination through many literary and cinematic works since 1876, and melodrama as a mode has constituted fertile grounds for their presentation.

Melodrama, being the literary mode of social revolutions and modernity, found in post-War of Independence Turkish cinema another venue in which it could flourish. The policies of Westernisation by Atatürk and the founding elite during the first years of the Republic created similar sentiments with that of the French Revolution, in that the traditional Sacred, embodied in the Sultan as both the monarch and the caliph, was shattered, and secularism, initially intended for the political arena, was also forced into the everyday lives of people. The need for the restoration of a moral universe, and resacralisation, evident in late 18th and 19th century melodramas of France, became the central themes of Turkish cinema, in the face of inability to express overt religious beliefs.

The ambivalent nature of Turkey’s attitude towards the West has been interpreted as endowed with melancholy.[17] Esra Akcan writes,

The oscillation between fascination and resistance, the swing between admiration and reaction against the “West” is similar to the “countless single conflicts in which love and hate wrestle together”. As the word has been defined over the centuries by writers including Aristotle, Ibn’Sina, Burton, and Freud to name a few, melancholy is a fluctuation between sorrow and anger, joy and grief, love and hate, and I add, fascination and resistance[18] (Akcan 2005, 8).

According to Akcan, it is the loss, or lack, of the ideal – in this case the idealised West – that caused the Eastern subject to feel melancholic. On the other hand, writer Orhan Pamuk, talks of hüzün, the Turkish word for melancholy, as a collective mode for those who live in Istanbul, which arose in large part due to the break from the imperial, multicultural past of the city (Pamuk 2006, 6).[19] This was, of course, one of the main projects of Atatürk, in accordance with the efforts of creating a modern nation state. Therefore, the Turkish subject could be said to oscillate between melancholies of varying reasons  – the distance from the Western modernity and/or glorious imperial history (which, of course, is another text re-written by official nation-state history) as the ideal. S/he longs for both and thus can have neither.

The melancholic mode was intrinsic to Yeşilçam’s melodramas, not only in the portrayal of tear-inspiring stories of star-crossed lovers, but also in the constant problematisation of a polar world: rich versus poor, urban versus rural… and in the final instance, all these binaries pointed towards West versus East. In Yeşilçam’s universe, West was often the object of desire and loathing at the same time. The rural/Eastern was deemed risible, and often used as comic relief, as in the case of Turist Ömer and his rural, fish-out-of-water ways. Western manners needed to be acquired, but they had to be re-negotiated, first. The rural, naïve woman had to learn how to be a modern (Western) lady but maintain the values she grew up with, while the Westernised, materialistic, urban man had to learn love, honesty, spirituality associated with the rural/East in Yeşilçam. It is this ideal position of in-between, this oscilliating existence between the East and the West that Yeşilçam promoted perpetually. Indeed, Yeşilçam films posited melancholy as a virtuous affect and a component of Turkish national identity.

The next section will look at a Yeşilçam melodrama, Sürtük (Ertem Eğilmez, 1965) and analyse the instances of sacrifice; a willing loss of an endeared object or in most cases a person, in which the subject is unable to come to terms with the consequences thereof. This pathologic behaviour is most frequently made apparent with over-articulation of emotions through verbal and bodily language, as the subject suffers in a way the audience cannot avoid, often accompanied with physical illness, nightmares, hysteria fits and general discontent, which were the trademarks of the melodramatic mode.

Sürtük – Re-imagining Pygmalion

Sürtük (The Tramp) is a frequently mentioned[20] women’s melodrama in Turkish film studies. Written by Sadık Şendil and based on the same titled novel by Mahmut Yesari (1937), and directed by Ertem Eğilmez, Sürtük’s plot revolves around the same themes as Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1913) in presenting the  ‘acculturation’ process of a lower class, uneducated female singer followed by the account of a love triangle. Sürtük has a star cast, with audience favourites Türkan Şoray (crowned as the Sultan of Turkish cinema) and Cüneyt Arkın as the lovers, and Ekrem Bora as the villain. The film provides an interesting case study in remakes and adaptations with its many layers, considering it is the re-imagining of Pygmalion, which is Shaw’s take on a Greek myth of that name as well as an adaptation of a Turkish novel, as well as a remake of a previous adaptation from the same novel, Sürtük (Adolf Körner 1942).[21]

Unlike Şeytan and Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda, which copy original texts in detail, Sürtük does not share exactly the same story as Pygmalion. Ekrem (Ekrem Bora), who decides to turn Naciye, the tramp (Türkan Şoray), into a lady is not a linguist, but a rich club owner. Like Higgins in Pygmalion, he is a devoted bachelor, however, he falls in love with the tramp in the course of her education, through which she becomes a famous singer in one of his clubs. At the end, Naciye (or Türkan, as she later calls herself in the film) chooses to be with someone else, rather than Ekrem. Thus, the film follows the same plot with a different setting and characters.

The film starts with Naciye, singing a song accompanied by an old violinist (who looks after Naciye with his wife, after she has been orphaned) and a young percussionist. In the first scene, we see Ekrem, the owner of several night clubs and seemingly a mafia figure, forcefully enter a casino with his men and make the owner of the casino sell it to Ekrem. Ekrem’s influence in Istanbul’s night life is repeatedly shown as he prevents one of his ex-employees from getting a job anywhere in Istanbul, and as he scolds Ferah (Ferah Nur), who is a famous singer, performing in one of his night clubs called “Büyük Saz”, for boasting of her fame, because he was the one who nurtured her career. His irritation by Ferah’s lack of modesty is the reason why he decides to prove that he can “make a man out of”[22] Naciye, who they chance upon in a club where she is singing popular songs and dancing in her old, cheap clothes. When Ferah articulates her disgust for this ‘tramp’, Ekrem says he can turn her into a sophisticated and famous singer overnight. After the show, he gives Naciye his card, and the next day, Naciye goes to his house for him to make her a star. Ekrem provides Naciye with all the necessary training she needs to become a polite and well-mannered lady of taste. She goes through a series of lessons where she learns how to talk politely, how to eat and drink ‘properly’, how to dance and finally how to sing. Ekrem asks Cüneyt (Cüneyt Arkın), a pianist working in Büyük Saz, to give Naciye music lessons. During these lessons, Naciye and Cüneyt fall in love. When Ekrem finds out about this he does everything in his power to separate them because he has fallen in love with Naciye. However, in the end he understands that he can force people to do all sorts of things but he cannot force Naciye to love him, so he brings Naciye and Cüneyt together.

Sürtük presents two significant moments of sacrifice and melancholy. In the first one, Naciye (or Türkan, her adopted stage name in the film) gives up her fame and wealthy lifestyle to be with Cüneyt. The filmic narrative thus establishes Türkan as having been Westernised in the manner desired by the official discourse. She initially bears the qualities generally associated with the East, or the rural in Turkey, she is lower class, poor, uneducated, but also sincere and honest. Her education is a process of modernisation/Westernisation, where she learns how to dress, dance, and speak[23] in the Western way. There are several indicators in the film that Türkan’s Westernisation is not merely an added-on quality, but she has adopted it and merged it with her being. In the second half of the film, we never see her slipping into her old self like she does in the first half; she is never called by her real name, Naciye (which is presented as an old-fashioned, ‘Eastern’ name) but instead uses her stage name, Türkan; she displays a complete adaptation to her new lifestyle, wearing expensive clothes and jewellery, driving expensive cars, and always behaving in a ‘cultured’ manner. However, as opposed to Ferah, who is the embodiment of ‘wrong’ Westernisation in the film with her attachment to luxury and riches and her lack of compassion for her fellow human beings, Türkan holds on to the values that are held sacred in the popular imagination. She chooses love over wealth, thus sacrificing the lifestyle she grew used to.

In the second instance of sacrifice, Türkan has to forsake her love for Cüneyt because Ekrem threatens to kill him if she does not leave him. Therefore, Türkan has to act as if she has never loved Cüneyt, and tell him she was only making a fool of him. Cüneyt leaves, heartbroken, after he slaps Türkan and calls her a “whore”. This is a good example for misunderstandings between lovers in melodramas. Right after Cüneyt leaves to the sound of Türkan’s sarcastic laughter, Türkan walks inside. The camera shoots her from a low angle and tilts  as she comes closer to it. She is barely able to stand, drops to her knees and starts crying: “God, oh God!” A close-up shot emphasizes her grief. Ekrem appears in the background, out of focus, and they have an argument. The camerawork in this scene is, like all Yesilcam films, quite promotes audience empathy with the central character. Nezih Erdoğan describes Yesilcam’s framing regimes as governed by ruthless production practices:

In trying to meet a demand for two hundred films a year, production practices had to run at great speed and thus by default a visual tradition of shadowplays, miniatures, and so on was revived. To save time and money, shot/reverse-shot and other point-of-view shots were avoided as much as possible. This meant the domination of front shots, characters mostly performed facing the camera and did not turn their backs to it. This made full identification impossible and gave way to empathy instead. (Erdoğan,1998: 266).[24]

Although shot/reverse-shots have been applied in this scene, we see the two actors facing each other in 180 degree axis. Towards the end of the scene, when Ekrem can no longer take Türkan’s accusations, he walks in the foreground facing the camera and Türkan remains in the background, we see them both from the front. Then when it is Türkan’s turn to speak she walks in the foreground and Ekrem remains in the background. This technique, quite popular among Yeşilcam filmmakers, increases the melodramatic effect as it evokes a theatrical style of acting.

All through the scene, Türkan’s behaviour is a performance of excess; both verbally and bodily. Her body drops dramatically to the floor, she cries, screams, tears off her clothes and shouts “I couldn’t have given you anything more than this. My heart and my soul belong to him. You can only have my soulless part, my flesh and bones, my pathetic womanhood. Wasn’t that what you wanted? Here, take your property! Take it!” “You can have my body, but you can never have my soul” is a frequently repeated line in Turkish melodramas by the ‘damsels in distress’, who cannot fight the attempts of the villain to be with them any longer, but want to make sure the villain understands even though he may forcefully have their bodies, he may never have their love/soul. As well as exemplifying excessive melancholic reaction to loss, these lines also have connotations of the spirit versus body, spiritual love versus bodily love dualities, common in Turkey when comparing so-called Eastern and Western cultures. It is usually “improperly” Westernised women who have sex with men freely, whereas heroines in melodramas stay loyal to the men they love, and virginal until they get married, no matter how ‘modern’ they are.

As Türkan expresses her melancholy in excess, all Ekrem asks of her is to be quiet. There are other scenes where Ekrem demands that the women around him “shut up” thus revealing his patriarchal attitudes. Throughout the film he requires that women be submissive, and obey all his desires silently. However, in this last scene, his need for silence results from his inability to accept Türkan’s words. Interestingly, Ekrem is the only main character who faces his loss – his sacrifice – quietly. In the final scene, he brings Türkan and Cüneyt together on the same stage, with the help of another club owner, without their knowledge. As the two lovers unite to the tune of their favourite song, he leaves the club without a word, and walks on the streets, with tears in his eyes. Through this act of sacrifice, Ekrem breaks free of the stock characteristics of a villain of melodrama, and embodies the more realistic idea that everyone, even villains, have reasons for their actions, like being in love. He has done what he has done, not because he is evil, but because he is hopelessly in love with Türkan.

Conclusion

Remaking a film in Yeşilçam required more than copying original texts. Hollywood constituted (and still constitutes) an ideal to be reached for popular Turkish cinema, not unlike the ideal of “reaching the level of modern civilizations”, presented by Atatürk. However, Yeşilçam also resisted narratives of Hollywood, through re-negotiating and re-imagining them. Like the virginal damsel of Yeşilçam melodramas, Turkish cinema would give its body to Hollywood cinema, copying and re-making its productions, but never its soul. The Turkification process, as Arslan calls it, meant that the characters and settings of original texts were replaced with Turkish ones, and the original texts were re-written in accordance with the national ideology and the project of modernity in mind.

Therefore, Yeşilçam reflected the political, social, and cultural attitudes towards the West in Turkey at the time they were made. They represent a conflicting, oscillating view, marked by both desire and resentment, and eventual melancholy.

Sürtük is only one of the many examples of melodramas bearing the themes of West versus East, and melancholies associated with these conflicts. Its positive representation of sacrifice and melancholy constructs an approved form of Westernisation for the audiences. Complete attachment to rural/Eastern background or urban/Western culture are equally risible and frowned upon. A synthesis of the two – a middleground – is called for in endless cycles of films. The characters are expected to suffer, if need be, for this ideal, at least for the next hour or so. If they do not refrain, they are rewarded with “happily ever after”.

Works Cited

Akbulut, H. 2008. Kadına Melodram Yakışır: Türk Melodram Sinemasında Kadın İmgeleri. Istanbul: Bağlam.

Akcan, E. 2005. Melancholy and the ‘Other’. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2005-08-25-akcan-en.html

Arslan, S. 2005. Melodram. Istanbul: L&M.

Atatürk, M.K. 1933. Speech on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the Republic”,  http://www.allaboutturkey.com/ata_speech.htm

Brooks, P. 1995. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Copjec, J. 1999. More! From Melodrama to Magnitude. In Endless Night: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories, edited by Janet Bergstrom, 249-272. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Erdoğan N. 1998. Narratives of Resistance: National Identity And Ambivalence in the Turkish Melodrama Between 1965 and 1975. Screen 39 (3): 259-271.

—. 2003. Powerless Signs: Hybridity and the Logic of Excess of Turkish Trash. In Mapping the Margins: Identity Politics and Media, edited by Karen Ross and Deniz Derman, 163-176. New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc.

Evren, B. 2005. Türk Sineması/Turkish Cinema. Antalya: Türsak

Gürata, A. 2006. Translating Modernity: Remakes in Turkish Cinema. In Asian Cinemas: A Reader and Guide, edited by Dimitris Eleftheriotis and Gary Needham, 242-254. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Ltd.

Gürbilek, N. 2003. Dandies and Originals: Authenticity, Belatedness, and the Turkish Novel. South Atlantic Quarterly. 102 (23): 599-628.

Moran, B. 2004. Türk Romanına Eleştirel Bir Bakış 1: Ahmet Mithat’tan A.H. Tanpınar’a. Istanbul: İletişim.

Pamuk, O. 2006. Istanbul: Memories and the City, Tr. Maureen Freely, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Scognamillo, G. 2003. Türk Sinema Tarihi. Istanbul: Kabalcı.

Smith, I. R. 2008. “Beam Me up, Ömer”: Transnational Media Flow and the Cultural Politics of the Turkish Star Trek Remake. The Velvet Light Trap. 61: 3-13.


[1] Literally, “Green Pine”, Yeşilçam is the name of the street in Istanbul, where most production companies were located during that time. It also signifies a particular mode of production and style a la Hollywood or Bollywood.

[2] Erdoğan, N. 2003. Powerless Signs: Hybridity and the Logic of Excess of Turkish Trash. In Mapping the Margins: Identity Politics and Media, edited by Karen Ross and Deniz Derman, 163-176. New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc.

[3] Arslan, S. 2005. Melodram. Istanbul: L&M.

[4] Evren, B. 2005. Türk Sineması/Turkish Cinema. Antalya: Türsak

[5] Gürata, A. 2006. Translating Modernity: Remakes in Turkish Cinema. In Asian Cinemas: A Reader and Guide, edited by Dimitris Eleftheriotis and Gary Needham, 242-254. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Ltd.

[6] Today, these remakes hold a cult status internationally, thanks to the internet and some foreign distribution companies (the most notable of which is Onar Films in Greece), who release DVDs of these films with English subtitles. It is also possible to find clips of these films on video streaming websites like YouTube by simply searching for “Turkish E.T.”, “Turkish Exorcist” and so on.

[7] Smith, I. R. 2008. “Beam Me up, Ömer”: Transnational Media Flow and the Cultural Politics of the Turkish Star Trek Remake. The Velvet Light Trap. 61: 3-13.

[8] My translation of the original Turkish text.

[9] Copjec, J. 1999. More! From Melodrama to Magnitude. In Endless Night: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories, edited by Janet Bergstrom, 249-272. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

[10] Tales of bardic tradition in Turkey. Aşık is the name given to storytellers who tell their stories playing the saz (a long necked lute).

[11] Moran, B. 2004. Türk Romanına Eleştirel Bir Bakış 1: Ahmet Mithat’tan A.H. Tanpınar’a. Istanbul: İletişim.

[12] Kerem ile Aslı, for example, is a folk tale from Iran, telling the story of two lovers, Kerem and Aslı. Kerem is the son of the Shah of Isfahan and Aslı is the daughter of a monk who is in the service of the Shah. Their wives had promised each other that the two children will marry when they grow up. However, the monk does not want this to happen, so he starts spreading a rumour that Aslı is dead. When they are at the age of 12-13, they see each other and fall in love. However, Kerem has to go through numerous hardships to marry her. When finally they get married, Kerem is not able to undress in their wedding night, because of a spell the monk put on his clothes. When he sighs in agony, he breathes fire and starts burning himself. Aslı, after suffering for 40 days, also dies burning while sweeping Kerem’s remains with her hair because of a flame still burning in the ashes.

[13] Quoted from Atatürk’s “Speech on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the Republic”, the English text of which an be found att http://www.allaboutturkey.com/ata_speech.htm. Accessed on 19/02/2010

[14] Brooks, P. 1995. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

[15] My translation.

[16] The Turkish word ‘züppe’ was translated as ‘dandy’ by Nurdan Gürbilek in her article “Dandies and Originals: Authenticity, Belatedness, and the Turkish Novel” (2003, 599). The word also stands for ‘snob’.

[17] I use melancholy in the Freudian sense, as a pathological reaction to loss, as discussed in his “Mourning and Melancholia” (1964).

[18] Akcan, E. 2005. Melancholy and the ‘Other’. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2005-08-25-akcan-en.html

[19] Pamuk, O. 2006. Istanbul: Memories and the City, Tr. Maureen Freely, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

[20] Scognamillo (2003, 353); Arslan (2005, 64); Akbulut (2008, 169).

[21] Savaş Arslan (2005, 64) notes that Sürtük is also a remake of Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me (1955). Furthermore, in 1970, Ertem Eğilmez made a colour remake of Sürtük with the same actor, Ekrem Bora, as the villain but changed the leading actor and actress. Hülya Koçyiğit replaced Türkan Şoray as the ‘tramp’ and Göksel Arsoy replaced Cüneyt Arkın as the piano teacher.

[22] Adam etmek, or ‘to make a man out of’, is an idiomatic phrase in Turkish, used to describe a process of educating and rendering someone useful, by making them quit their old, unacceptable ways.

[23] In a scene where Türkan is learning how to eat and drink, her teacher instructs her to say “cheerio” instead of “şerefe” (to honour) when she raises her glass, because, according to him, it is what women are supposed to say.

[24] Erdoğan N. 1998. Narratives of Resistance: National Identity And Ambivalence in the Turkish Melodrama Between 1965 and 1975. Screen 39 (3): 259-271.