Friday, December 04, 2015

An Embrace of Dead Bodies

The Turkish film, ‘Nekro’ focuses on the subject of necrophilia

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the Turkish film, 'Nekro', there is a striking scene when actor Mehmet Yilmaz Ak, who plays Ihsan, a nurse in a state hospital, goes into the morgue. There he pulls out a trolley from a freezer. On it is a body covered by a white sheet. He pulls the sheet down. It is a naked young woman, her eyes open and lifeless.

Ihsan caresses the face and the body. Then he rubs cream on her legs and says, “Don’t get angry.” Thereafter he gets on top of her and says, “You are so sweet,” even as he simulates sexual intercourse.

On other occasion, Ihsan hides in a locker in the nurses' changing room and watches, through a gap, as they put on lipstick and gossip about one another. Once they leave, he steps out and caresses the nurses’ uniform which is hanging in a cupboard.

Ihsan is a loner. What deters people from befriending him is a black scar over one eye. It makes him look ugly. There is a scene where he is walking along a riverside, during a windy evening, and enviously watches a lone-struck couple throwing pebbles into the water. He yearns to be with a woman, but is unable to do so.

So, his interaction with corpses continues, and it is always with young women.

It is a creepy film,” says Mehmet, on the sidelines of the All Lights India International Film Festival at the Cinepolis, Kochi. “Ihsan suffers from necrophilia. He only feels alive, when he is around dead bodies.”

But one day, at the morgue, Ihsan sees the dead body of a pretty woman and falls in love with it. He manages to take the body to his apartment. He lives above an irritating and inquisitive landlady who is always berating Ihsan because his rent is late or the roof is leaking.

Once Ihsan starts living with the dead body, he becomes excited. He buys lipsticks and new dresses for her. When he returns from work, he sits beside her, has his dinner and says, “How was your day?” Once, late at night, he carried her out and placed her in a boat and went rowing.

But the body is steadily decaying. Pieces of flesh are peeling off from the face and the legs. He tries embalming methods, but it is not working.

And, during this period, Ihsan’s character starts changing. “He starts to feel alive and more human,” says Mehmet. “Ihsan learns to communicate with people, does daily chores, plays cards with the men in the neighbourhood, and acts like a family man who cares about his house, and, of course, his beloved spouse.”

Meanwhile, the landlady gets suspicious. He asks Ihsan about a smell in his apartment. But when she tries to enter his apartment to investigate it, he prevents her.

Ihsan rushes to buy a freezer, which he puts in his bedroom and places the dead body. Things are moving towards the climax....

Nekro’, made by a young director, Pinar Sinan, is a movie that you watch with bated breath. It is exploring a side of abnormality that we rarely get to see in real life. And it is a consummate performance by Mehmet.

To understand Ihsan well, I went several times to the morgue, to observe dead bodies,” says Mehmet.

The Turkish actor has only acted in four films over ten years. “I am very selective,” he says. “I only act in films where I am drawn to the character.”

However, the Turkish film industry is thriving. More than 200 films are released every year. “Most of them are comedies,” says Mehmet. “That is what the people like to see.”

Mehmet admits that 'Nekro' is not for a general audience. “It is for people who love art films,” he says.

Meanwhile, to earn his bread and butter, Mehmet acts regularly in television serials.

But things are not so rosy in Turkey. “The country is divided,” he says. “On one side, there are the supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative Justice and Development Party, while on the other, there are the liberals and free-thinkers. One half of the population is willing to die for him, while the other half dislikes him.”

The Istanbul-based actor admits it is difficult to live in Turkey. “We are experiencing a loss of creative freedom,” says Mehmet. “There are bans on the press and television. I feel a lot of pressure. We don't know what is going to happen next. There was a bomb blast in Ankara, recently, where 120 people died. They had been marching for peace. It was a non-violent demonstration.” And just two days ago, there was another bomb blast on the Istanbul metro. Mercifully, there were no deaths.

So Mehmet is glad to be in Kochi. “It is a wonderful city, so different from Istanbul,” he says. “The food is exotic. The people are so kind. I am enjoying the warm weather because it is freezing in Turkey now.”

Mehmet breaks out into a warm smile when he says this. 

(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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