Nothing new under the sun in Turkish television

"Is there any word left unspoken?
 Tales untold, topics untouched by poets"

These verses belong to the famous poet Antere, who lived in the Arabian Peninsula, which was a completely closed region during the Jahiliyyah (Age of Ignorance) period just before the birth of Islam. 

Antere concluded that there is nothing new under the sun.

In the fifteen hundred years since then, millions of stories and poems, hundreds of thousands of novels have been written, and half a million movies have been made that tell similar stories with slight variations.

When this fact is known and accepted from the beginning, nobody will have a problem that "One Way Ticket to Tomorrow", launched as Netflix's 'first Turkish movie', is an exact copy of a Swedish movie "Hür man stoppar ett brollop". 

Spin-offs and adaptations are now very common not just in Turkey but all around the world.

David Fincher's "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is the first example that comes to mind. Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's novel with the same title was made into a movie by director Niels Arden Oprev. I neither read the novel nor watched the movie, nor do I think I missed something. 

Fincher did not like Oprev's movie. He asked Steve Zaillian, the screenwriter of magnificent films such as “Schindler's List”, “Gangs of New York”, “The Irishman”, “American Gangster”, and “Moneyball” to write a five-act script rather than the usual three-act one, and then Fincher shot his own version.

"No Reservations", an exact copy of the German movie "Mostly Martha" which is about the relationship of a perfectionist chef and her struggles to raise her niece after her sister died suddenly, was reshot with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the lead role. The two films, which are almost the same, are both very successful and both are equally beautiful.

These are just successful examples of exact replicates. There are also disasters like the Hollywood movie "Downhill", adapted from "Force Majeure" which was written and directed by Ruben Östlund, who won a Golden Palm in Cannes with "The Square" in 2017. 

The subject is the same in both films: A man leaves his wife and children to save himself from being engulfed by an avalanche during their vacation at a ski resort. The rest of the movie is about the couple's fight over his selfish behaviour.

I could not manage to finish “One Way Ticket to Tomorrow” because of the way two repulsive characters talk Turkish in the film and I refused to watch it with English subtitles. I do not want to disrespect the labour of people who made that film by saying it was good or bad. I know very well how difficult it is to make a movie as someone who has been involved in these things.

But I would be curious to know what was so original about a groom's ex-girlfriend and a bride's ex-boyfriend meeting on a train and going to the wedding together that needed to be replicated.

My aim is not to disrespect people's efforts. But I can summarise my concerns as follows: anything big or small about life, such as a movie, an article or a story can inspire storytellers, and they may want to do a better version of it. However, it does not need to be replicated precisely. 

Instead of taking a ready-made template and repeating the same thing, filmmakers could tell a story that reflects their personality and character, a product of their world of thought and imagination.

The same things could be said about the upcoming Turkish adaptation of the French television series "Call My Agent!”, a comedy about actors, directors and their agents.

High-quality TV series on almost all topics have been shot in Turkey. Several Turkish series in history, which were shot before Turkey's ruling party started a tradition of reconstructing them as propaganda tools, achieved great success and popularity in almost every part of the world. Even though the techniques used to make two-hour-long episodes impair the quality, the technical infrastructure of these series are robust, and their shooting quality is high.

But should a series, that will advertise Turkey's television and entertainment world, have been a replica of a mediocre show like “Call My Agent!”? The fact that the production company behind the Turkish version happens to be the producer of “Ezel”, one of the best Turkish TV series of modern times, is even more embarrassing.

The Turkish audience learned with “Ezel” that TV series scripts have a complicated structure like a mathematical formula. For this reason, I am having difficulty understanding the logic behind the efforts to import an average series from France instead of producing an original piece that will promote Turkey's entertainment sector all around the world.

TV series and movies are the inventions of the Anglo Saxon civilisation, and they do it the best. Still, storytelling is one of the most ancient and deep-rooted traditions of Mesopotamia. For this reason, I believe that Turkish screenwriters will successfully write a hip, cool, modern series that will show the background of the country's film industry.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.
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