“Families can become very dangerous mechanisms when they are threatened”
With an elaborate staging, supported by warm images, Çağıl Bocut immerses us in Geranium in the troubled family situation of young Defne. The fragile relationship with her dependent father, the difficulties that come with returning home, and the sentimental bonds we establish are the main themes addressed in this Turkish family drama that flirts with the thriller. Geranium traces the small emotions of its characters, their virtues and weaknesses, to draw with them a beautiful reflection on the loss of innocence.
– How autobiographical is the film, given that you’ve said how you went through a difficult period in 2009 due to many members of your family dealing with serious illnesses?
– In 2009, parallel to the story, I had a period when several members of my family were unwell. Periods such as illness and loss create different dynamics and power balances in a family more visible. When my father had a stroke, we had the opportunity to get to know a more human and different side of him. At that time, of course, I didn’t have a point of view like I would make a movie of it. However, I had intense feelings and I was thinking that at some point I had to pronounce them somehow. A few years later, I decided to tell about that period, thinking that what I experienced might have a social equivalent.
– There are various transition rituals in a person’s life such as graduation, work and wedding, why do you think that there is no ritual for a father or a mother to get old and hand over the torch to his or her child?
– Because I believe this transition is rather quiet and sad. In the juvenescence stage, for the child, gaining power only happens as a result of an important achievement. I want to show this process of father experiences which have distinctive features in each family, symbolizing a transition of a father to senior, reflected as a quiet ceremony.
– The study of the relationship father-son is common in Turkish cinema, but the dynamics between father-daughter are not. What led you to incorporate this more original approach?
– At first our story also ran on a father-son axis. However, somehow I couldn’t warm to the characters and the dialogues between father and son. I was not interested in what they were talking about and I didn’t prefer to tell another father-son story. I decided to build the story on the father-daughter axis, as I thought it would be more original and I wanted to explore my feminine side more. During this transformation process, I consulted with female script consultants and İlayda Elhih, who played the leading role. I am quite happy with my decision.
– The films stars as a moral dilemma and evolves towards a crime story, how did you keep the balance between the two genres?
– Since we witnessed the most real nature of the characters in crisis moments, crime elements were only a tool to make the family conflicts and the relationship of father and daughter more visible. By radicalizing my story with these elements, I aimed to render the conflicts of young-old, mature-naive, death-life more clearly. But of course, it is quite normal that the film is perceived as changing genre, a little outside of my purpose.
– Why was it important for you to open up a debate on the notion of justice?
– I believe that families are the biopsies of society, and I think that families can turn into very dangerous mechanisms when threatened. It is also possible for individuals to do whatever they can to protect their own interests. For this reason, I first wanted to question the concept of the justice of the families, which is considered sacred. I can say that other themes such as health bureaucracy, intergenerational conflicts, and family power dynamics were automatically included in this concept. I choose disease and death as a sub-theme to improve the conflict of authority and power struggles between father and daughter. Because I don’t believe in the notion that waiting for death frees us from our moral responsibilities. It only gives us excuses to believe what happens as a result of natural process instead of embarrassing it as the consequences of our choices. I also believe this is a social despair; that’s why I want to illustrate the story by deepening it.
– Can you explain the visual mood of the film, the use, for example of the counterlights in contrast with the sunny, exuberant outdoors?
– We tried to build the visual mood together with Orçun Özkılınç, the cinematographer of the movie and my close friend. We preferred more symmetrical and fixed plans to describe this distant and angular family. Throughout the film, we used a camera language that increasingly focuses on Defne from broad plans. We aimed to create a sense of journey from the beautiful nature of this Mediterranean town to the inner world of the character.
– The music plays an important role through Defne headsets. What’s the role that music plays in her alienation of her problems and worries and how did you develop it by giving it a use both diegetics and extradiegetic?
– Palmiyeler is a band that I love very much and my close friends. The protagonist of the movie Defne is a 19-year-old person from Izmir. I thought Palmiyeler would be close to her and the movie’s universe. I strongly believe diegetics sounds can have a strong effect on both the audience and the characters in the film. Besides that, non-diegetic sounds that we used in the film is not music, it is rather soundscapes with some effects that we chose to use for underlining a tension.
– Your first documentary focused on a British musician, Terry St. Clair. How much are you interested in the documentary genre and in music as future projects?
– Currently, there is a short film that I plan to shoot in June and a theater play that I wrote together with Can Merdan. Both excite me. I have some long-term ideas, but it’s a little early to talk about it yet.