Harem Suare (Last Harem) (1998) 

 

 

 

Director:     Ferzan Ozpetek

Starring:     Marie Gillain (Safiye), Malick Bowens (Midhat), Haluk Bilginer (Abdulhamit), Alex Descas (Nadir, the eunuch), Valeria Golino (Anita, the newcomer), Serra Yilmaz (Gulfidan), Ayla Algan, Basak Kklkaya (Gulbahar), Lucia Bos (Old Safiye), Christophe Aquillon (Sumbul), Pelin Batu (Cerkez Cariye), Meri Benlioglu.

effects of death of the Ottoman Empire on the harem

 

I was a little confused about the movie, because the time line is confusing.  But I think I've got it now.   

Yildiz Palace (the governmental palace in Istanbul), July 23, 1908.  The Turkish Sultan's advisor Izzet urges the Sultan to denounce the leaders of Ittihat.  But the Sultan ends up dismissing Izzet Pasha instead.  The Sultan wants to avoid a civil war.  To this effect he signs the new constitution.  This proved to be the beginning of the end for the harem for the harem of the Sultan is now going to be legally closed.  To keep the women in the Sultan's harem distracted, harem servant Gulfidan tells a story of the beautiful Safiye, who became the Sultan's favorite. 

The story begins with the arrival of a new comer to the harem, Anita, who is at the train station bar.  Anita meets the older Safiye who is retiring from the harem.  Anita asks Safiye for some advice about life in the harem.  Safiye will not give her any advice, but she is willing to tell Anita about her life in the harem. 

The young Safiye soon becomes the favorite of the Sultan.  She is beautiful, intelligent and musically talented.  But she is also a little bored and unfulfilled.  She and the black eunuch Nadir Aga become close and begin a relationship.  Safiye wants to have a child and so she makes a deal with the new girl Aliye to take her place for the night with the Sultan in exchange for some fabulous jewels.  Aliye agrees and Saifye takes her place.  The next day Aliye is found drowned in the Bosphorus.  Everyone thinks that Safiye had the young girl murdered. 

Safiye gives birth to a baby boy and she proves a devoted mother.  Her son, however, has heart problems and is very ill.  Because of a callous remark by one of the older women of the harem, Safiye suspects that someone has poisoned her child.  Her child soon dies and she is distraught. 

From this point the story is told by the older Safiye to Anita. 

Back to the present.  Soldiers arrive to announce the closing of the harem, saying that the women are now free.  The women are upset because they worry about their futures.   After all, their lives have revolved around the institution of the harem. 

What now will become of Safiye and the other members of the harem?  And will Safiye ever see Nadir again? 

I read that this is part of a trilogy and that may be why there is little in the way of set-up for this movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

1634  --  the word "harem" first recorded in the English language.  A harem could consist of wives and concubines, their offspring, eunuchs and other servants.

The Ottoman harem in the imperial capital Istanbul typically housed:  several hundred women including wives (only four of which were considered legal); the Sultan's mother, daughters and other female relatives; eunuchs; and slave girls. 

1876-1909  --  reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.  Soon the Sultan became obsessed with the threat of assassination and he withdrew into seclusion in the palace of Yildiz and never left.

1877-1878  --  the Russo-Turkish War.  The war was disastrous for the Ottoman Empire. 

German officers were employed to help reorganize the Ottoman army and German government officials helped reorganize the Ottoman government's finances.

Sultan Hamid mishandled relations with Arabi Pasha with Great Britain gaining near total control of Egypt.

1892 & 1893  --  rebellious moves in Armenia. 

1894  -- a more serious rebellion in Armenia is ruthlessly put down by the Turks. 

1897  --  Greco-Turkish War with the loss of the island of Crete.  

1899  --   the Ottoman Empire had to give Germany the Baghdad Railway. 

1908 (summer) the Young Turk revolution began.

1908 (July 23) after learning that Salonica troops threatened to march on Istanbul, Abdul Hamid capitulated.

1908 (July 24) restoration of the suspended constitution of 1876.

1908 (July 25) abolishment of espionage and censorship and release of political prisoners

1908 (December 17) Sultan Hamid opened the Turkish parliament.

1909 (April 13) counter-revolution began with an insurrection of the soldiers. A conservative upheaval in the capital overthrew the cabinet. It was believed that the Sultan had backed the reactionary forces.

Soldiers from Salonica restored the government. Abdul Hamid deposed.

1909 (April 27) the Sultans brother Reshid Efendi proclaimed Sultan Mehmed V.

Ex-sultan Hamid placed in captivity at Salonica.

1912 the ex-sultan spent his last days in Istanbul studying, carpentering and writing his memoirs in custody at the palace of Beylerbey.

1918 (February 10) the ex-Sultan died at the palace of Beylerey. A few months later his brother died.

 

 

 

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