Takva: A Man’s Fear of God

Turkey's Submission for Foreign-Language Oscar

Ozer Kiziltan, director of “Takva: Man's Fear of God,” Turkey's official entry for this year's foreign-language Oscar, offered the key to his film in his introductory remarks: “I live in a part of the world where lots of strange and quiet stories are waiting to be heard and communicated.”

And indeed, “Takva” tells an unusual story. Protag Muharrem (superbly acted by Erkan Can, who's been winning awards) has worked as a clerk for over 30 years in the same traditional Istanbul neighborhood where he was born. Humble and introvert, Muharrem lives a solitary, meager existence of prayer and sexual abstinence, adhering strictly to the most severe Islamic doctrines.

Not for long, though. Muharrems extraordinary devotion attracts the attention of the leaders of a rich and powerful religious group. His acclaimed trustworthiness and conscientiousness inspire them to offer him an administrative post as rent collector for their numerous properties.

From that point on, the narrative becomes a clash of subcultures and mores. Provided with a new look (elegant suit), and modern technology (watch, cell phone, computer, and even car with a driver), Muharrem is thrown into the outside world, an alienating milieu he has successfully avoided for long. His nave eyes are soon witness to hypocritical attitudes towards alcohol consumption and goodwill.

Inevitably, a process of transformation follows and Muharrem begins to change. To his own dismay, he adopts contemptible traits, such as becoming aggressive, domineering and proud, eventually even cheating in a business deal. To make matters worse, Muharrems inner peace is unnerved by the tormenting image of a seductive woman who appears in his dreams, both night and day.

Muharrem has built his life around being able to distinguish between carnal and spiritual values. But the balance of his devotion is now upsetand his fear of God (hence the subtitle) begins to eat away at his senses.

At the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, where “Takva” received the Fipresci Prize for Panorama Section, Kiziltan said that, unfortunately, his great creative influences have been war and violence, and that he has decided to channel them into “the war” inside one man's soul.

“Takva” was honored with 9 awards at Turkey's Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival