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Emin Alper • Director

“No one knows what the future holds”


- Turkish director Emin Alper is back with Frenzy, which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice and is on general release now in France; he also discusses his project Sisters

Emin Alper  • Director

Having risen to fame with Beyond the Hill [+see also:
film review
interview: Emin Alper
film profile
 (Special Mention for Best Debut Film in the Berlinale Forum in 2012), Turkish director Emin Alper continues his rise to stardom with Frenzy [+see also:
film review
interview: Emin Alper
film profile
 (co-produced by French outfit Paprika Films), which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice last year and is out in French cinemas today, courtesy of Nour Films. We met up with the filmmaker in Paris.

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Cineuropa: After exploring paranoia in the midst of nature in Beyond the Hill, this time you depict urban paranoia in Frenzy. Why are you drawn to this theme?
Emin Alper
: Artistically speaking, paranoia offers huge potential for telling a story: it heightens the interest, and that allows you to delve into the psychology of the characters and learn a great deal about them. It’s also fascinating on a political level because at the moment, there’s a highly paranoid political atmosphere in a wide array of countries – it’s like what happened with the recent US election, for instance: people don’t trust each other, and societies are increasingly divided, with groups who feel hatred towards one another and who think they are the targets of conspiracies and evil forces. That’s why I’ve delved deeper into this subject matter in both of my films. And Turkey is a particularly paranoid country because it’s a society that has been immersed in conflict for a number of years, with several divisive elements juxtaposed with each other: the question of ethnic minorities with the problem of Kurdish identity and Turkish identity, the various religious groups, such as the Alevites and the Sunnites, the pro-Western Kemalists and the conservative Islamists, and so on. It’s history repeating itself constantly with these divisions. That means distrust is the order of the day: each one comes up with its own conspiracy theories, most of which are absurd. Each one has its own version of reality, its vision of history, its vision of politics, and none of it is compatible with the rest. I have the impression that I’ve been living in this climate since I was a kid.

You address this atmosphere through a family-based context.
It’s a good metaphor for the nation itself. In Beyond the Hill, the whole nation was gripped by paranoia, and this forced the family to fight against an unknown foe. I wanted to push the idea that we could be a family by fighting, simply by finding enemies.

But in Frenzy, I placed paranoia within the family itself and portrayed a story that focused more on the characters, in order to say that in the end, we can’t be a family, we can’t be united, because we don’t trust each other: we don’t think the enemies are solely on the outside, but we also think they are within, a belief that is also expounded by the state’s current propaganda machine. 

You made some very strong visual and audio choices, and you also toy with distorting one’s perception of reality.
To a great extent, I already had the structure of the edit and the atmosphere in mind when I was writing the screenplay. I wanted to work on a very expressionistic style; I wanted the film to start off in a very realistic way, and then to gradually slip in more and more unreal elements. I chose Adam Jandrup (a Dane living in New York) because I was looking for a DoP who had a knack for gloomy atmospheres. I also knew that the sound and the music would be important in accentuating this atmosphere. For my debut film, I didn’t really think about the music beforehand, and I only found a composer during the editing process. This time, I found Cevdek Erek, a modern artist who is very well known in Turkey, prior to the shoot. Most of the sounds were in the script: the doorbells, the ringing of the bells, the barking of the dogs and what have you. We thought about the way we could use these sounds, rather than composing a “regular” musical score. And I really like what Cevdek did when he twisted the sound of a helicopter.

What stage is your new project, Sisters, at?
The screenplay is ready; we’re at the funding phase, and if all goes to plan, I intend to shoot in winter 2017-2018. Komplizen Film (the German outfit headed by Maren Ade, among others) is on board as a co-producer. It will tell the story of three sisters who are adopted and given to rich families, but who, for different reasons, are sent back to their village; they then want to escape from it to return to the city as adopted children.

Did the awards that your first two films won at Berlin and Venice open a lot of doors for you?
It makes things easier. More people in Europe are already taking an interest in my new project, but there is some very strong competition for funding. It’s the situation in Turkey that’s the most important because that’s where the bedrock of the funding has to come from – if not, no other country will invest. Under normal conditions, I would be virtually guaranteed to scrape together some funding in Turkey, but everything’s so chaotic there at the moment... My producers are optimistic, but no one knows what the future holds.

(Translated from French)

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