Dry Summer (1964, Metin Erksan)

There’s no use crying over spilled…water? Unscrupulous tobacco farmer, Osman, one day decides to divert the river supplying water to his entire village directly and exclusively to his own property to beat out any and all competition.

Dry Summer is a tale of greed and obsession. This fixation for water is illustrated best in the cinematography. The humidity and the heat from a landscape plagued inexorably by drought is captured well, providing a vivid depiction of rural Turkish life in the ‘60s. The scramble for access to the water in the film’s many standoffs between Osman and the villagers look and feel as desperate as they no doubt would be. Erksan manages to make water seem like the only thing in the world worth having control over.

The camera movements are even more impressive; forever positioning itself to illustrate Osman’s dominance over everybody else and its use gets fairly surreal towards the end. In one scene, Bahar, after believing Osman’s younger brother (Hasan) has been killed, collapses on the floor – the camera then spins and tumbles in a stirring depiction of uncontainable grief.

The characterisation shows nowhere near the same level of care and attention, however. Every major character is very one-dimensional, barely developing at all over the course of the narrative. Osman is greed personified, displaying no subtle nuances that could otherwise have made him an interesting antagonist. His brother, Osman, is dithering and Bahar is simply the woman to which Osman’s rampant misogyny can be channeled.

Osman’s morality is encapsulated in two awful scenes of animal cruelty, the most unforgivable of which involves Osman shooting a dog and doing a fairly terrible job of it – the dog writhes in agony on screen. The purpose of the scene is so that Osman can claim it was done by the villagers in order to get Hasan and Bahar caught up in the siege mentality cultivated by his selfishness. How or why that was deemed the best way to move the story forward is beyond me. Context is always important but it doesn’t stop these instances being extremely uncomfortable to watch.

Dry Summer was restored as part of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. It’s a noble cause and I look forward to what other underseen films get the restorative treatment. For anyone interested in exploring a wide range of cinema Dry Summer is worth seeking, but the basic, unimaginative characterisation and horrendous animal cruelty make it difficult to recommend. (5)

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