Venice 2015: ‘Frenzy’ review


In Emin Alper’s sophomore film Frenzy (2015), two brothers look to survive the paranoia, terror and repression of a frantically unstable Turkey. Mehmet Ozgur plays Kadir, a lumbering giant of a man with a constant expression of docile worry. He is released on parole in return for becoming as an informer to the Turkish intelligence service. He goes back to his old shanty neighbourhood near Istanbul to reunite with his brother Ahmet (Berkay Ates) and settle down to life as an almost free man. Working as a garbage collector, Kadir is to report on his neighbours and has been trained by his handlers to recognise the smell of suspicious chemicals that might be used to make bombs.

Turkey has changed while he has been inside. “This country is weird. We all live in holes and do secret things,” he complains when he and his brother’s friend Ali (Ozan Akbaba) visit an illegal tavern. Ahmet meanwhile works for the council shooting wild dogs. His life has fallen apart. His wife has taken the kids and split – for another man he furiously supposes. He has little time for his brother, who is basically a stranger, and is reluctant to answer the door as Kadir calls round to see if he is okay. However, dog shooter and garbage sniffer are brothers after all and their destinies are to be interlinked. They both live on the lowest rung of society and are used by the state to do the dirty work.

Kadir rents a room above Ali and Meral (Tulin Ozen), who he suspects is having an affair with Ahmet. Kadir can hear her noisy lovemaking and presses his ear to the floor whenever he can. Meanwhile, Ahmet has a dog he wounded turn up whining at his house. He lets her in and his initial irritation gives way to adoration as he finds in the dog’s company a way of defeating his loneliness. The first half of Frenzy effectively sets up the world of the brothers and their day-to-day existence. The terrorists bombing increases however and with it comes the reaction from the state, which starts to seal zones with roadblocks and checkpoints, and instigate mass arrests. Military vehicles and police cars speed through nights rocked by explosions and the TV plays nothing but news of terrorist atrocities and police raids. As the area becomes increasingly febrile, so the brothers fall into their obsessions and secrets. Ahmet is intent to hide his boss from his fellow dog killers and his neighbours, knocking a hole in the wall to create a hideaway. And Kadir types out long detailed reports for his stern intelligence boss (Mufit Kayacan), full of petty complaints and social insecurity passed off as valuable intel. When his neighbours are arrested and a police post is set up downstairs, Kadir’s world begins to fall to pieces.

As the reality of the story begins to collapse, so does the film itself. Long delusional but allegory-ready dreams begin to haunt the film, but these are dreams of both the brothers and the presence of two unreliable narrators is too many for the narrative to sustain. Confusion reigns as nightmarish reality gives way to plain nightmare and the ineptness of the brothers to deal with the world around them in the most basic sense of self-preservation, blunts Frenzy of its political bite. As they become increasingly out of touch, so their actions put them in avoidable danger, like sleepwalkers who insist on living near the cliffs. As with Beyond the Hill (2012), Alper has a great eye for place and he creates the crumbling village where nothing is green and waste ground is occasionally covered in choking fog or dirty snow. One night the rubbish containers are all set alight and there is an unsettling beauty to the vandalism. Ahmet’s window almost becomes an image of his own fraying mental health as it squeaks and rattles with tension as explosions boom in the near distance and monstrous armoured cars thunder into town. Inevitably, something has to give.

The 72nd Venice Film Festival takes place from 2-12 September 2015. For more coverage, follow this link.

John Bleasdale | @drjonty