Emre Akay’s powerful social thriller pits a woman against not only her immediate family, but an entire country’s cultural attitudes, its conservative values, and misogynistic impulses. Av (The Hunt) is a depiction of modern Turkey likely to rile those who adore the nation’s incumbent dictator.
‘This is honour! There is no escape!’ a relative tells Ayse (Billur Melis Koç), a young woman marked for death by her father and his male relatives. In their eyes, she has dishonoured him, the family name and must be punished. Throwing us right into the situation with its in media res narrative setup, a pair of lovers have barely locked lips before everything goes to total shit.
Her boyfriend left for dead after a skirmish, Ayse goes on the run, nobody willing to help her, not even good friends. Heading out into the Turkish countryside and hoping to flee to Istanbul, hot in pursuit are her husband and his cronies, heavily armed and determined to see Ayse pay for the crime of wanting to divorce her tyrant husband.
Director Akay is not messing around with his disgusted assessments of conservative Turkey in 2020. The men are ultra-aggressive, conniving, and willing to murder for the sake of restoring tradition. A woman’s place is in the home, she speaks when she’s spoken to, she is there to service and honour the man. Turkey is both at a cultural crossroads as much as a geographic one at the doorstep of Europe. Since President Erdogan has been appointed, the country has rolled back its westernised ways. This sense of discomfort, a homeland going wrong, lends Av a great deal of thematic weight.
As Ayse battles to save her own skin, the film is overtaken by a bleak fatalism motored by just how senseless the situation is. Things have long stopped having any logic, but nobody questions what is happening, we are in the realm of true nightmare. Unbearably tense from the off, fiercely political, Av should be commended for tackling an ugly subject matter.
FrightFest runs from 28-31 August. Tickets are available at frightfest.co.uk.
Martyn Conterio | @martynconterio