Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008

Wrath of God?

By David Luhrssen
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Middle aged, pious and retiring, Muharrem leads a quiet life in an old neighborhood in the ancient crossroads city of Istanbul. He’s an office clerk, says his daily prayers as a devout Muslim and attends the ecstatic worship of the dervishes at a nearby religious foundation. When the sheikh of that order invites Muharrem to work for him as manager of the foundation’s extensive commercial and residential properties, he is pulled out of his comfortable and simple existence into a world of complexity and seeming contradiction. As he has always feared, balancing the spiritual and the material is never easy.

Takva: A Man’s Fear of God by Turkish director Ozer Kiziltan is an investigation of one of the varieties of religious experience through Muharrem’s descent into anxiety and anguish. His problem is that he understands devotion as largely a matter of thwarting desire in a world of desire. He becomes obsessed by his inadequacy, his sins, his continual failure to achieve an entirely blameless life as he makes his way through Istanbul, collecting rent and engaging with the world. Casting is superb in this award winning film, out now on DVD. Kiziltan makes artful use of distorted sound and visuals to amplify the increasingly disordered state of Muharrem’s psyche.

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