This blog is part of the courses on film, art, literature, and media
given by Dr.
Hudson Moura, Toronto, Canada.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Emotional engagement in Thiago Luciano's Turkish Coffee

Why should we care what happens to fictional characters? After all, since they are fictional, their fates shouldn't matter to us in the way that the fates of real people do. But, of course, we do get involved in the destinies of these imaginary being. The question is why. Because so many films that attract our interest are fictional, this question is an important one for philosophers of film to answer. One answer, common in the film theory tradition, is that the reason that we care about what happens to some fictional characters is because we identify with them. Although or, perhaps, because these characters are highly idealized—they are more beautiful, brave, resourceful, etc. than any actual human being could be—viewers identify with them, thereby also taking themselves to be correlates of these ideal beings. But once we see the characters as versions of ourselves, their fates matter to us, for we see ourselves as wrapped up in their stories. Thomas Wartenberg

In a town dominated by war, what rules is the terror and fear. Life and death confronts on every corner. The film is set in no specific place or country. The feeling of fear is faced by both sides, the doer and the one who's succumbed by these events--a foreigner soldier and a local woman. Acts of violence, created by fear, can strike any moment. Based on the play Holy Land by Mohamed Kacimi. 

Some students comments:

This film explores the interaction between a male soldier and a civilian female in a place where war is occurring. The film presents a distressed and traumatized soldier--his soft side is shown to us by his contemplation of a photograph of his family. We know that he misses them and we are able to see his pain through close-ups of his face and more particularly his eyes. The woman--living on her own because she has lost her husband during the conflict--is portrayed to us as fearless at first, but later we see that her act of strength is nothing but a facade, which both characters are forced to deal with.

In the small and dilapidated space of the woman's apartment the two characters size each other up having been conditioned to suspect the worst of the "enemy." As it is possible for the audience to identify with both of the characters, it is not easy to take a side. The man, after all, is only a man who misses his family, while the woman is in a vulnerable position. In areas of conflict where Western occupying forces presumably attempt to counter terrorist activities, through encroaching on another's territory (as the soldier does in the woman's apartment) only serves to flame the fire of resentment.
Camera work plays a great work in engaging the audience's emotions through close-up shots of the soldier's face--showing his breathing and the fear in his eyes--which makes the audience identifies with him and fearing for him. Camera's positioning and unexpected point of views--from the above--also gives the audience the feeling of fear since they think that someone else is watching the characters movements. Thus, what is interesting about this movie is that the audience fears for both characters. Sometimes the point of view of the woman--when she fears and disgusts soldier's attempt of rape her--makes the audience to identify with the woman, and in this way emotionally engage the audience into the film. Sometimes this movie provokes fear either by identifying with the character or simulating a fearful situation creating bodily responses from the audience such as sorrow. I felt sorry for the soldier as he was seeing resemblances of his wife in the woman. He was affectionate at times but since his affection was not received by the woman as he expected then he becomes angry. At this point the audience, such as myself, get confused and caught between feelings of sorrow for the soldier and fear for the woman. However, during the whole film the audience worries for the soldier because of the suspicion that the close-up emphasizes the package that the woman was carrying at the beginning of the film and also the close-ups of the coffee being made by her. The contrast lighting in the film also engages audience's feelings. In the scene of the attempt rape, the woman's face is half bright and half dark: is she the evil person or the victim? At the end of the movie, she throws the "suspicious" package on the floor and a close-up of the soldier's face fades in white and disappears: was it a bomb? The audience has to decide.

We as the viewers--at the beginning of the film--start to really feel fear for the woman's safety. We wonder if the soldier is going to beat her to death or maybe even rape her. In this point we sense some emotional disturbance for the soldier--he went through a hard life and has seen a lot of bad things and by showing her his music and touching her we feel that maybe he just wants to be loved. He wants the love the woman has for her dead husband. There is a lot of mixed emotions we don't know weather to fear for the woman of feel sorry for the soldier. Camera movements are very quick at times but also lingers on scenes to show us how the character is feeling. In the woman's close-ups, we can see the sweat on her face cuased by her feeling extreme of fear for her life. We also see how the camera loves the soldier showing us his expressions during his vulnerable moments--when he is listening a song in his phone, he really seemed to enjoy it. 

This continued struggle between of trust and fear between the two is what I would think is the main conflict amongst also the factors that the two of them have two different beliefs and perspectives of the war.
The setting and some elements of the mise-en-scene evoke fear in the audience, such as the ruins of a town, a very scary and uncertain environment... as well as the gun carried by the soldier, pointed at the woman, which could go off at any time without warning and kill her. Anyone can relate to the fear exhibited by both characters, as everyone has some experiences in which they were scared when faced with a frightening situation.

 Turkish Coffee (Café Turco, Brazil, 17 min., 2011) Thiago Luciano
Watch the trailer