By Carlos Aguilar | SydneysBuzz December 9, 2013 at 7:00PM
The Butterfly's Dream, Turkey's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. : None Yet. Production Company: BKM Film
Attempting to decrypt, explain, and capture the complexity of the human experience has been the eternal mission of writers. To translate into words the enormity of what surrounds mankind entails the specific talent of using something as complex and rule-bound as language to makes sense of something as unsystematic,mysterious and messy as life. Of all the brave souls that undertake such task, poets, novelists, and philosophers carry on their shoulders all the existentialism avoided by fact-based scribes in journalism or research. Their literary works are as subjective as can be, and interpret the world from a personal standpoint Perhaps that is why connecting to a poem written in the distant past speaks of the writer’s talent. They, like any artist, have to make their unique perception into something universally comprehensible. The difference is that in their arsenal they have as only tools the fixed meaning of words, which they must mold into poetry. Undeniably, the beauty of poems, and even more the poets themselves, fascinates director Yilmaz Erdoğan, so he decided to create his own visual verses in his epic period drama The Butterfly’s Dream.
Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, this is the real life story of two young poets forgotten by history whose writing developed through strenuous adversity. Muzaffer (Kivanç Tatlitug), the optimist romantic, and Rüştü (Mert Firat) the pessimist dreamer, are a team of aspiring writers whose brotherly camaraderie is based upon their shared loved for the written word and their mutual misfortune. In a time when compulsory labor was imposed on villagers and tuberculosis was rampant among the impoverished population, the two of them remained cheerful that one day their dreams of being published and their poetic vision would materialize. Living in poverty and ill with the terrible respiratory disease, both men write as a form of therapeutic catharsis in the face of so much misery. Advised by their families to pursue other more productive professions, their only encouragement comes from their supportive teacher, and acclaimed poet, Behcet Necatigil (played by director Erdoğan himself).
After casually meeting beautiful Suzan (Belçim Bilgin) , the daughter of a wealthy and influential man, the poets make a bet. To decide whom she likes the most they each write a poem for her to choose blindly which one she prefers. Visibly more interested in her, Muzaffer strives to get her attention. Once the lighthearted vagabonds befriend her, she agrees to star in a no-budget play Rüştü about a pair of doomed lovebirds in the forced labor hell of the mines. Their short-lived creative happiness comes to an end once Suzan’s father is informed of the boys’ sickness. Still, the separation only pushes Muzaffer to need her more. Because of their debilitated health, and helped by their loyal teacher, the poets are admitted to a sanitarium, where the course of their lives is altered. Falling in love while facing the possibility of never conquering the long-awaited recognition becomes both their inspiration and their death sentence.
Taking its title from a ancient passage by Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu , in which he pondered on a dream he had where he was a butterfly.Erdoğan’s film deals with the same nature of reality and the things, like art, that serve as antidote to mitigate the pain and hardships one must withstand. Tzu couldn’t be certain if he had dreamt to be the flying insect or if he was really a butterfly that dreamt it was human. There is nothing absolute and everything exist in an always shifting transformative state. The poets couldn’t foresee the future, they couldn’t wake up from their destiny - whether this was a dream or a nightmare. However, they could embellish their existential agony with the sheer joy of their passion for writing. They became masters at speaking of sadness with voices cheerful grace. Tatlıtuğ is splendid as boundlessly positive Muzaffer as is his charismatic sidekick played by Firat. Together with the rest of the noticeably invested cast, they present a movie that despite its overall grandeur, is about their individual wandering, suffering, and redemptive motivations along life’s uncertain roads.
Crafted with the splendor of any Western period film, Yılmaz Erdoğan’s historical feature is classically stunning. Its impeccable photography adorns the
frames with a delightful color palette and displays the elaborate sets and production design. This is top-notch filmmaking utilized to retell profoundly meaningful
material, it is the perfect mix of visual exuberance and delicate storytelling. Irresistibly lyrical from start to finish, The Butterfly’s Dream is ravishingly elegant, and it is propelled by the rapturous aesthetic bestowed onto every aspect of the piece. Like
the most uplifting, yet heartbreaking lines ever written about love, the film entrances the viewer and pays respect to its powerful characters, to their sadness, and beautiful unfulfilled hopes.