Capturing Moments With Maraşlı

Maraşlı TV series’ very first episode opens with Celal facing the camera, looking at us directly and saying: “It was the saddest day of my life, I didn’t know it.” If you weren’t convinced with my previous piece about Maraşlı that this story is structured as a Greek tragedy, then this sentence should count as proof. He’s telling us right from the start that this is indeed a sad story.

I feel like this opening sentence is a salute to another famous opening. Nobel prize winner Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, opens his book ‘The Museum of Innocence’ with this famous line, “It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.”

Museum of Innocence in Istanbul was created by Orhan Pamuk as a companion to his novel.

In cinema and in literature I don’t believe in coincidence. I feel that, if I could notice a similarity right away, this was a salute to Orhan Pamuk. I won’t summarize the book here but know that it’s a beautiful love story. For those who are interested, it is available in English as well.

This is not the only Turkish novelist Maraşlı script salutes. The intelligence agent who was running the operation before Celal and who was assassinated at the shooting in the first episode is called Mehmet İnce. This I think, is a salute to Nobel prize nominated Turkish novelist, Yaşar Kemal and one of the most famous characters he created with his 4 novel series İnce Memed*(translated with the name ‘Memed, My Hawk’ to English).

The book was first published in 1961 and it was the first Turkish novel that had an international impact. İnce Memed character is kind of like a local hero (almost a Turkish Robin Hood) so that’s a great reference for a character who gets killed on a mission for his country. Yaşar Kemal is famous for his great depiction of provincial life. Further down the series, I have the feeling we might be introduced to this Mehmet İnce character with flashbacks.

This collection of short stories by Yaşar Kemal is a great introduction to Turkish literature. I guarantee, you will fall in love with the simplicity of the language and the beauty of his stories.

When Mahur entered Celal’s bookshop to ask for a book and he kind of looked down on the book she was asking, I kind of chuckled to myself. Now I know that if Celal’s literature references are this high, it’s understandable how he says we don’t have those kinds of books! :) He still tracks it down and gifts it to her in second episode though. Since the book Mahur was looking for is not a real book, I’m curious if we’ll get it mentioned later again. I wonder what it’s about. I feel like we will get to learn about this book in the future.

Maraşlı is great at building tension with camera work.

When Mahur visits Celal at his house and he is reading a poem to his daughter Zeliş to help her sleep, it wasn’t just Mahur who thought this is a beautiful poem, right? The name of the poem is Istanbul. Perhaps an interpretation of how Celal feels about Istanbul. The poet Cahit Külebi is described as, “a poet who views Istanbul from Anatolia”. How fitting! Let’s look at the poem. Know that the rhythm of the poem is beautiful but unfortunately you’d have to speak Turkish to understand that. I tried to translate it as best I could.

Zeliş’s silence has a meaning, I hope to write about in the future.

ISTANBUL

Trucks carry melons and
I used to think about it,
Trucks carry melons and
I used to think about it,
I was free like a little sparrow
While we were at our home in Niksar.

And then the world changed
Different water, different weather, different soil.
And then the world changed
Different water, different weather, different soil.
How quickly the seasons passed by
To forget, to forget, to forget.

I realized this city is different
Everybody cheated on me and then left,
I realized this city is different
Everybody cheated on me and then left,
Trucks still carry melons

But the song inside me has ended.

-Cahit Külebi

First a few words about the poet:

Cahit Külebi is not only famous for his brilliant use of words and sounds in his poetry. He is also a masterful storyteller, especially the story of the Anatolian people who live in towns and villages and have a simple and beautiful life. After living in various cities in Anatolia, he moved to Istanbul to study at university. After graduating, he became a literature teacher. While he was studying, he went to Germany and France to learn other languages. He represented Turkey as a cultural attaché in Sweden. Also as an interesting trivia, his funeral was held in Ankara but his grave later was moved to Niksar (the city mentioned in the poem) by his family. His poems were neat, precise, rhythmic. Yet they had great depth and feeling. Like the one above.

Beneath its attractive surface Istanbul also has an ugly face, just like Savaş.

Now about the poem:

I find it very fitting that Celal is reading this one in episode 1. Right away we see that he also feels estranged in Istanbul. He refers to the mountains a couple of times in the series. Especially on episode 4 where he kidnaps Mahur and takes her to a house outside the city. He says one can think better in the mountains. Life is much better there.

The beginning part of the poem is in past tense. The title is Istanbul but the word is never mentioned again in the poem. The “it” in the poem is Istanbul. So the poet is thinking about Istanbul because the trucks are carrying the melons to Istanbul, probably from the city/town he lived in as a child or a youngster.

What would Cahit Külebi think if he saw his poem on the back of a melon truck?

I know this feeling, growing up outside of Istanbul, you have a feeling of longing to be there, it has a great appeal especially when you are young. But then the poet says the world has changed. This is because he moved to Istanbul for his studies and saw that it wasn’t what it seemed. It’s very hard to make a living in Istanbul. This brings painful memories that he wants to forget.

Istanbul morning painted in red.

At the end of the poem the trucks still carry melons, so life goes on. But the song inside him has ended after his disappointments with people who entered his life and left. He doesn’t feel free as a sparrow as he used to. The repetitions increase the heaviness of his findings.

Scenes floating into each other creating lots of double exposure shots like this one. ❤

Celal tells Mahur about his childhood friends in episode 6, but at this point, after our realizations in episode 8, we don’t know how much of it is true. But I’d like to believe some of it is true. When he tells her about his childhood crush’s name is Begüm, she answers, “that doesn’t sound like she was a local” and he confirms. In the show many times a line is drawn between small towns/cities and Istanbul. I think the impressive wide angle Istanbul shots also intend to accentuate the magnitude of Istanbul. It is made to look like a villain in and on itself. It’s beautiful and cruel at the same time, as it’s a home to evil lurking in the shadows.

Celal recording his voice.

“A secret that is recorded becomes an important weapon.” These are the words of Savaş, our favorite villain.

Literature and poetry are both ways of capturing moments and feelings. In a way they are the records of findings of these great authors and poets. In the first episode we see both Mahur and Savaş taking photos. We also see Celal recording his voice. They are capturing moments too. This is their story. Mahur is a photographer, this goes to show, her role in this story is going to be a relentless pursue of truth which will be hidden from her by her family and by Celal (he will only share whatever serves his mission). Savaş’s interest in photography is only showing his interest in Mahur and not in photography itself. This shows his feelings for her will block his vision from seeing some things.

Mahur capturing the Türels’ last happy moment.

I don’t know why Celal is recording his voice yet. It doesn’t look like it’s a report for the intelligence team but it may as well be. It’s also very dangerous to keep these records as we have seen in episode 8, Mahur found the recorder and heard things she shouldn’t have and so she decided to leave Istanbul for New York.

Savaş imitating Mahur.

The photos Mahur took in episode 1 (when Savaş killed the prosecutor) caused a string of events. They actually sparked the beginning of this story. How much of it was planned and how much of it was a coincidence we don’t know yet.

Mahur is a beautiful name, we will get into that in the next piece I’ll write.

Dear reader, these are some of my findings of the first episode. On the next article I think I’ll talk about more episodes than one and we will finally be able to get into some music as well.

Thank you for reading so far, I hope this was enjoyable. It’s pure joy to be able to share these with you and your comments, replies and kind words encourage me to write more of these.

Please share your ideas, theories, comments and opinions about this piece and the Maraşlı show with me on Twitter, I’m @edsavaseri there. Sending you love and peace from a sunny Istanbul morning.

-Eda

*The name Mehmet is mostly pronounced with a weak “t” sound which is closer to “d” and the “h” is also almost silent. So Memed is a more informal version of it. It’s a nickname for the name Mehmet. The name Mehmet derives from the Prophet Muhammad’s name. Its meaning is “praised in heaven and earth”. The word “ince” means “thin”.

I'm a copywriter from Istanbul. I love writing about Turkish TV shows, TV series, movies, literature. Follow me for analysis and/or reviews.