Director: Serif Gören, Yilmaz Güney.
Starring: Tarik Akan (Seyit Ali), Serif Sezer (Ziné), Halil Ergün (Mehmet Salih), Meral Orhonsay (Emine), Necmettin Çobanoglu (Omer), Semra Uçar (Gulbahar), Hikmet Çelik (Mevlat), Sevda Aktolga (Meral), Tuncay Akça (Yusuf), Hale Akinli (Seyran), Turgut Savas (Zafer), Engin Çelik (Mirza), Hikmet Tasdemir (Sevket), Osman Bardakçi (Berber Elim), Enver Güney (Cindé).
virtual police state in Turkey in the 1980s
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Island of Imrali. Half-open prison. There are a number of prisoners who are hoping to get leave where they can have a week away from the prison. Among them are Seyit Ali, Mehmet Salih, Yusuf and Omer. Mehmet receives a letter from his estranged wife asking him if her brother Aziz was killed because he (her husband) got scared and ran away. The four men receive leaves. Their first stop will be Konya. There the prisoners learn that there is a military curfew in effect. Seyit goes home where he talks with his family. He learns that his wife abandoned her son and dishonored both sets of parents, not to mention Seyit himself. His wife Ziné is accused of having sex with other men. She has now fled with her son into the mountainous area of Kurdistan where her family lives. Seyit has to keep moving on to find and punish his wife.
Mehmet learns that his brother was shot by the Fascists and left for dead. He visits his brother in the hospital. There Mehmet admits that he was the driver on a robbery committed by his brother-in-law Aziz. Mehmet got scared when the cops showed up and he drove away without picking up Aziz. Aziz was then shot dead by the police.
The police have road bocks set up in various places. They stop the bus that carries some prisoners on leave. Yusuf gets pulled out of line because he lost his papers to prove his was on leave. The police take him into custody and he ends up spending his leave in a jail cell.
As Omer approaches his village he hears machine gun fire. The police have cornered two bad guys in one of the what looks like mud houses. After some encouragement, the two men give themselves up. Omer sees a pretty girl, Gulbahar, in who he takes an interest.
In Dyarbakir Mehmet and Seyit part ways. Mehmet gets off the train and walks to a part of town that looks like a real dump. Children are hanging out smoking cigarettes. Mehmet shows up at the home of his father-in-law. He is not welcome. In fact, they hate Mehmet. The son of Aziz tries to stab Mehmet, but is stopped twice. Mehmet wants his wife Emine and his two children to leave with him. Emine first wants to know if Mehmet ran off and left her brother because he was afraid. Mehmet admits that he ran away and left Aziz stranded. Upon hearing his confession, Emine faints.
Seyit stops at the home of his in-laws. His brother-in-law tells him that the family is more than willing to kill his wife Ziné, but the final solution will be left to Seyit. Seyit borrows a small horse and sets out in the bitter cold for a five hour trip. The poor horse cannot make it and collapses onto the snow. Seyit takes pity on him and shoots the horse in the head.
Omer sees the woman he is supposed to marry. He tells her that she must obey his every command. Omer does not seem to be all that enthusiastic about marrying the woman. He pays a visit to a brothel where he has sex with girl number eleven.
Mehmet, his wife and two children board the train and leave the village.
Seyit finally arrives at the village where his wife is staying. She has been chained up by her relatives for some eight months now. They expect Seyit to kill the woman, but he is not enthusiastic about the idea of shooting her. Ziné is somewhat resigned to her ultimate fate.
Mehmet starts to have sex with his wife in the bathroom of the train. They are discovered and the passengers get very upset and angry. The situation becomes very dangerous. Mehmet has violated some religious law.
Ziné gets washed by her sister. Seyit does not shoot his wife. Now she feels she has some hope because her husband did not kill her.
The young son of Aziz boards the train and shoots Mehmet and his wife in the head killing them.
Ziné's sister tells Seyit that Ziné will not be able to survive if he walks her back to her home village. Ziné falls behind. It becomes apparent that Seyit has deliberately decided to let the snow and cold kill her. She cries out to Seyit and her son: "Don't leave me to the wolves". Seyit suddenly has a change of heart and tries to save her. But it is too late. He carries her to her home village on his back, but she is dead on arrival.
Omer decides not to marry. His brother has been killed by the police and now he is the husband of his brother's wife and father to her four children. He still, however, thinks of the young and pretty Gulbahar.
Seyit has to leave his son with his in-laws and return to prison. Omer also has to leave his new wife and four children and Gulbahar and return to prison.
Of the four men on leave, one (Mehmet) was shot and killed by his in-laws; one (Yusuf) spent his time in a jail cell; one (Seyit) indirectly kills his wife; and another lost a brother and gained a wife and four children.
Yol is a good movie. It is also a very upsetting movie. Like Midnight Express, the portrait of Turkey in this movie is a very disturbing one. There are police and military all over the place. And the way women are treated is absolutely brutal. Seyit has been assigned the job of killing his unfaithful wife for shaming her families. Omer has to marry his deceased brother's wife and care for her four children. Yusuf has to spend his leave from prison in a jail cell because he lost his papers. And Mehmet and his wife are killed in a revenge killing by their nephew. I don't think I'll be going to Turkey any time soon. It's a problem when Europe and the former British colonies are in the twenty-first century and the Islamic world is in the fourteenth century.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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