In a Turkish village close to the Syrian border, a smuggler called Hadir tries to move on with the times, but dire circumstances result in Hadir agreeing to take hundreds of sheep across a border filled with mines and patrolling officers. A one-last-job-and-he’s-done sort of situation, you could say. And it all goes about as smoothly as you would expect.
Law of the Border has a distinctly spaghetti Western feel to it (even the title conjures feelings of the old west) and is at its strongest when embracing this. Cheesy though they were, I very much enjoyed the shootouts which make for a fairly exciting second half.
The first half, however, is on-the-nose sociopolitical commentary painted in thick, unsubtle strokes. The execution is far less elegant, here; the film simply does not have characters with the required depth to offset the didacticism. Coupled that with primitive visuals which frequently opt for silent-era staging with slow pans to the side, Law of the Border – and its portrayal of the working class struggling to modernise as decided by their government – is tough to engage with and not easy to follow.
There’s something a little unsettling about not taking to a film Martin Scorsese has personally involved himself with (this is part of his excellent World Cinema Project). Nonetheless, it’s heartwarming to see an obscure movie released to the public when you consider that the entire film was almost very nearly destroyed in the Turkish coup d’état in 1980. Law of the Border stands as more interesting historically and sociologically than it is cinematically. (4)