The Announcement

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Announcement
"Recalling the bone-dry wit of the likes of Pablo Larrain mixed with a dash of the absurdity of Samuel Beckett, this is as much a waiting game as an action plan." | Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

With humour as cool as the "frigidaire" which fuels a running joke in the middle of the action, Mahmut Fazil Coskun takes a droll approach to a failed 1963 Turkish coup attempt against in his latest film The Announcement - which played in the Venice Horizons sidebar. Recalling the bone-dry wit of the likes of Pablo Larrain mixed with a dash of the absurdity of Samuel Beckett, this is as much a waiting game as an action plan.

It's a waiting game that also requires patience from the viewer, as like the general populace at the time, we're not initially aware of the true the nature of the narrative, which only snaps into focus after half an hour or so. Up until that point, the shadowy figures Reha (Ali Seckiner Alici) and Sinasi (Tarhan Karagöz) could be ne'er do wells of virtually any sort, their clinical approach to killing sudden and unnerving.

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Once they hook up with co-conspirators Kemal (Murat Kiliç) and Rifat (Sencan Güleryüz) it becomes clear that they are Army officers tasked with announcing the coup over the radio in Istanbul - a simple sounding mission that becomes Sisyphean when faced with interacting with the general public. Istanbul residents, it turns out, are less frightened by the prospect of power shifting hands, than jaded by the whole exercise, having experienced so many of these events.

Immersing us in one oppressive setting after another - from the interior of a taxi cab to the confines of a bread van - Coskun and his co-writer Ercan Kesal keep the tension taut. The director also generates intrigue by having action occur out of Krum Rodriguez's camera's vision, so that we can only hear the exchanges being made elsewhere. Like the regular townsfolk, its focus stays fixedly ahead, after all, we learn that looking too hard could be deadly. When its gaze does break away, its almost a sheepish side-glance, suddenly focusing on a piece of ephemera - a wall clock, an ornament or a bottle of Martini.

In a balancing act worthy of PT Barnum's tent, there's always a sense of mockery of power, whether generated by those 'still life' shots of household objects, the offhand attitude of everyday people to the power grab attempt or simply the absurd amount of standing about the men have to do - "What are we doing?" "We're waiting." While this is, no doubt, a commentary on Turkey, it is also a much more universal sideswipe at dictatorial attitudes and a celebration of the little guys and gals who keep on keeping on come what may.

The film is available to watch online at Festival Scope's Sala Web until September 19.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2018
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Soldiers involved in a 1963 coup underestimate the invisible power of civilian life.

Festivals:

Venice 2018

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