Who could not fall in love with the city of Istanbul after visiting it? This is exactly what happened to Grant Gee, the director of the newly released documentary film, Innocence of Memories.
“I visited Istanbul for a few days and I knew I want to shoot a movie here”, said the British film-maker, who spoke to press after the screening of the premier at the CineCity film festival.
The film tightly revolves around Orhan Pamuk’s novel, the Turkish author’s masterpiece, about love and loss: The Museum of Innocence (2008).
The story takes place in one of the upper-class boroughs of Istanbul, where both the author, Pamuk, and the male character of the novel, Kemal, grew up. Whilst out looking to buy a handbag for his fiancée, the thirty years old Kemal happened upon Füsun, a beautiful shop-assistant and his poorer distant cousin, who is 13 years younger than him. However, this doesn’t deter the pair as they both fall madly in love and begin an intense wild romance at the near Merhamet Apartment. The couple meet eachother every day for the next month and a half but the love between the two cannot last long. Kemal has to get married. Füsun is still very young and not a virgin anymore; virginity before marriage was still crucial in 1950s Turkey. Kemal has to realize that he cannot keep Füsun as his lover whilst he is married, and act like his father and his uncles behaved in the past. He is going to lose her.
The book portrays Kemal’s emotional suffering with this grief and how he meticulously collects all the items which have history around the pair and the time they spent in the Merhamet Apartment; these are now displayed as a saudade museum of his memories, titled The Museum of Innocence. It is currently open to the public, owned by the author, Pamuk, and is what inspired Gee to turn the novel into a film, thus bringing Kemal’s story to life once again. It is this museum which symbolically binds Kemal and Füsun’s love for eternity.
After the inspiration hit Gee he immediately got in touch with Pamuk and the movie took only 5 weeks to shoot using only a steady cam, and after 6 months of editing the movie was finished. He also told us, it’s as though Istanbul becomes a living playground at night, giving great opportunities for filming; the wild street-dogs juxtaposed with the peacefulness of the streets. It’s paradoxical that the film leads you through Istanbul at night to the narration of a mature woman; the streets of Istanbul are not a safe place for a woman to walk by herself alone at night. Gee effectively puts you in the story by guiding you though both in the streets of Istanbul and the museum, whilst blending in conversations with Pamuk, the author himself, and helping us to understand and truly appreciate; he makes you feel like you are there, you are walking on those streets and you are living the story of the two innocent hearts, Kemal and Füsun.
By Csenge Krokovay