We watched Silenced Tree on 21st of July as part of the Istanbul Film Festival in 2020. It is Faysal Soysal’s second feature-length movie after Crossroads, the movie he made in 2013 about a set of important issues he was concerned with. It is a successful movie in terms of cinematography and acting. Although it may seem like it is about femicide at first, it is actually a multi-layered film with a potential to do further readings about. The movie gives us, the audience, clues about our main character Hayati who is a literature teacher. It does this by reminding the names and the contexts of the books which we see in the very first scenes of the film. Throughout the film, we often see the characters mention the works of great writers, analyzing the everyday human soul, showing that it is not that easy to analyze any situation, encouraging the reader to question more, succeeding in making the reader bond with the book, and leaving the door of hope halfway open, while discussing the pain.
Character choices and the names that were given to them are products of subtle work. These substantial choices stand out for their elements that strengthen the narrative and feed the integrity. The director also deals with some secondary topics in the film, such as the situation of our youth, art, artwork, and some views on the real artist.
The film shows different elements that affect people in various ways. The question “What would people say?” is another important issue that the director emphasizes in this context from time to time. The scenes where several men are having a conversation in a coffeehouse give us important clues about the social situations. In these scenes, we feel that encouragement has an important place in society as a constructive element. Those who talk in the coffeehouse come to our homes every day, every night. What we hear and what we see manipulatively affect our behavior, whether we are aware of it or not.
The film’s strong emphasis on the human soul and self can be seen in the scenes with a father figure involved. For example, the tree metaphor represents Hayati’s father whom he wants to lean back on. A father should be someone who is deeply rooted, strong, and big like a tree that you can lean back on. Thus, he would show kindness and give confidence to his children. The role of the father is the most important thing in the construction of the personality; it especially affects confidence. The lack of it, like any other, turns into a cage, a shackle of a lifetime, whether the person is aware of it or not. While you can stop poverty by food, lacking anchors in the depth of the soul. For what the person lacks is one of the basic needs of a “human”. It is hard to retrieve that anchor and get rid of it without dying from the bends.
What Hayati writes in the fisherman’s hut rejects fatalism by making the audience feel the importance of being strong and staying strong as a civilization beyond individuals and societies; longevity would come to those who deserve it. And he does this using literary language. As fatalism is a weakness that comes from laziness, the film criticizes us for laying things at fate’s door in this way.
Hayati’s dream lights the touch paper and carries us to the final. The final comes with a decision, a decision to free himself from his father, whose fate he embraced as his own. We see Hayati and his father in a surreal scene. Then the director surprises us with a plot twist as he has done several times throughout the film.
As we approach the finale, we watch some important and touching scenes where Hayati, Ahmet and Serap talk. The film’s stunning finale speech overshadows the scene, even the characters, and throws us a curve.
Although we think that the main idea of the film is femicide at first, we learn that it is actually different. The main idea of the film is the source of violence and the problem of evil that we face everywhere and every time. The director manages to deal with these rough and complicated issues in a poetic way. His view on the subjects is original and deep. The film puts many question marks in the minds of the audience, possibly leading to even more question marks. It succeeds in making the audience feel the tension with the cinematic elements like the pace, light, sound, music, and characters. The director holds a mirror to the inside of the humans, rather than the outside. He tries to find the solution by looking at the reasons, rather than the conclusions. He reveals “what should have happened” in the mirror of “what happened.”
The director expands our perspective and allows us to explore everything in a deeper sense. Nothing is as bad or as good as it seems. In fact, nothing is as it seems. The film makes us track down many toxic relationships hidden behind that one toxic relationship. The audience struggles to make a familiar decision throughout the film, “Which one is the guilty one: the man, the woman, or both?” But the director shouts out: “It is you. It is me. It is all of us. You cannot step aside.”
Yes, everyone is guilty. Parents, teachers, lawyers, and politicians… Everyone, all of us! We are paying a price. It finds us and disturbs us no matter what we do or do not do, because “You do the crime, you do the time.” We have chosen to not accept it in our hearts, rather than saying or doing something to change it. And this is the weakest of faith. Because we have forgotten the truth. We have forgotten that even not building a good, true, direct, and beautiful personality is cruel to self. We have forgotten that the antonym of the word “justice” is “cruelty”. If so, we are the unknown subjects of every crime and every oppression. We have placed the voice that tells us this, the truth, aside. We have put ourselves in the center. We are the guilty ones. We are irresponsible. We do not fight to the best of our ability. We only watch everything on our couches with a remote in our hands. That is why we are guilty.
Where does this violence come from? The violence we witness and escape from. Do we realize that we feed that violence in different ways? However, there are two indispensable and simultaneous ways required to get rid of evil, whether considered in an individual or social context; protecting ourselves from evil, preventing it, being kind, and spreading kindness in society.
If so, we are all murderers. We are murderers of nature, animals, babies, and people. We are the murderers, with full stomachs, of those who starved.
We are paying the price. We are paying for our insensitivity, forgetfulness, and our ugly escapes.
What we “watch” on the news is a cry for help against our silence, overflowing pus caused by our greed, stones we trip over because we try to run from reality, and fire burning our skin for we have never taken the responsibility.
It is easy for those, who are lawyers of themselves and judges of others, to hand down a decision. The director relieves us of this easy judgment and touches our consciences with his bare hands.
Human beings always look around to find someone to pass the buck, sometimes this even leads to God and they blame him. But finally, with this film, one looks at the mirror on such an occasion.
In my opinion, the film makes it to the list of successful films. I congratulate the director wholeheartedly, who succeeds in making the audience understand “Whoever leads to good, he is like the one who does it.” I hope as we watch him improve himself in this industry, we can watch and talk about many works of his in the future.
“The Poet, like this monarch of the clouds,
Despising archers, rides the storm elate.
But, stranded on the earth to jeering crowds,
The great wings of the giant baulk his gait.”
– Charles Baudelaire
“You know, for years I thought I couldn’t fly because of my father’s fate of suicide. I’ve never once tried loving these naturally heavy, ugly wings of mine and flying like that. Now, it is a little different.”