Hudutların Kanunu

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Scratched, dirty, and with frames missing, the lone surviving print of Lütfi Ömer Akad’s Hudutların Kanunu (1966) is a worn and weary mess. But the physical condition of the film itself, even after Martin Scorsese’s restoration, seems to suit the images contained therein and the story that they tell. Akad’s Hudutların Kanunu is a tale of survival and honor between adversaries set against the harsh back drop of rural Turkey.

Hudutların Kanunu may sound like an American Western but Akad isn’t content to let the film be just a romantic tale of lawmen and smugglers. Much of Hudutların Kanunu suggests the Western while it also alludes to the dreamy political films of Oleksandr Petrovych Dovzhenko. Akad discovers his own minimalist poetry in images of men lost in rocky landscapes strewn with barbed wire and landmines. Death is an ever present possibility in Hudutların Kanunu and without death’s cold companionship the smugglers and many of the villagers are unsure how to go on living their lives.

Co-writer Yılmaz Güney plays Hidir, a skilled horseman who has turned to smuggling in order to support his son Yusuf (Hikmet Olgun). On the side of the law or state is Erol Taş as the Commandant sent, along with the school teacher played by Pervin Par, to help bring the village into the modern age. The ideological conflict between Hidir and the Commandant is given its physical expression in the chase scenes and shoot outs that pepper Hudutların Kanunu. Akad is careful though not to let the excitement and spectacle of these action sequences undermine the ideological debate going on in his film.

As mentioned above, Hudutların Kanunu owes something in its visuals to Oleksandr Dovzhenko. In terms of montage, however, Hudutların Kanunu has a sort of pulpy, punchy style akin to the films of Sam Fuller. The difference between a film by Fuller and Hudutların Kanunu is that Akad’s film never moves fast. There’s no padding to the plot but it does take its time to let every scene, all of them essential, to play out. Perhaps Akad’s approach is more like Robert Bresson’s in terms of ideologies.