Selahattin Yusuf


The Last Days of Innocence

Main characters Masum and Handan are a well reputed ex-revolutionist couple who had fallen in love during their university years back in the 70’s and married later. Handan is a young, attractive looking vivacious girl coming from a well off family, whereas Masum is a charismatic reckless young man, a leader by nature, coming from poor rural family. The couple’s love and struggle is simply proverbial: they are the jewels of the university. Although they crown their love with a marriage while they’re still at school, years to come are to take its toll. After moving to Istanbul, Masum goes through a phase by the end of which he stops caring about his ideals and motivations for he is now a well known director shooting TV series with his wife Handan is rubbing shoulders with all those high society. Now all gone those olden days of revolution… they have long become the followers of the system. They have a kid to whom Masum is rather much attached. However, with all that fame and fortune, their marriage is now rather turbulent with endless arguments which in time turned into nightmares for Masum. Their relationship is in the point of break and as ever Masum is the weakest chain. Anyway, during one of those summer holidays they hardly enjoyed, they witness a drowning event at the beach…

“That human tragedy that had condescended on the beach had also immensely disturbed Handan. Masum moved towards his wife amongst the women whose cries, fears and panic had already turned into a cacophony. She was still staring after the ambulance with her mouth open full.
Masum felt somewhat apprehensive in being coming to any physical contact with her. Though he stood behind her very closely he was rather careful not to touch her… for right of initiative with regards to any physical contact was reserved by her!
Well, as he honestly admitted to himself, he had wished to exploit Handan there and then for her nerves were on the edge of breaking anyway. You’re a vile man Masum. A real vile! He had snapped at himself screaming within: Vile man… with his camera at his hand, he snuggled Handan with an ambivalent courage and placed her head on his chest.
In her mourning though Handan had found that unexpected liveliness: she kept on diddling Masum body. She was chanting. Handan did not want to bear the embarrassment of crying alone; she could not have deliberately left that advantage of crying over someone’s shoulder –don’t matter how ridiculous and trivial it might be- before her peers and equals.
So they just stood upright for a while.
Then, they carried on standing upright more. Then still standing upright, still standing upright for a much longer time…
Whilst Handan eventually became stiffened still, Masum carried on with his proudly-offered help: He further squeezed up his “still wife to be onpaper” in his vile arms.
Masum had held on tight to his salty back and shoulders, as well as that potency of femininity that he could not manage take off of her hands for a long time… in other words his self-made tragedy. He carried on judging within… Vile bastard!
To her content, Handan deeply inhaled his odour behind his ears. As if the time has stopped altogether. Well, it wasn’t of course, but it had slowed down so much that Masum could not have noticed its passing… Vile!
No. Handan’s recklessness was still going on.
People had already cleared away one by one and went under their umbrellas already.
Those aggressive haggles inside carried on for another few minutes or so… and died away. Even this bleeding motionless round, too, that lasted for some three or four minutes the max, was easily won by Handan.
Masum had given up!.
He moved his body and loosened himself… just like a viper snake realising that he can no longer swallow its prey. His arms fell down at his elbows to his sides…” (S. 9)

With the collapse of Masum’s business life, Handan will show her claws and recall her old bourgeoisie days. Having treated Handan’s approach as a great betrayal of his deprived past, his profession and his idyll to her, Masum is now have to deal with various problems with respect to both family and love, and profession and reputation. Masum has another major (and impossible) expectation: Masum has been covertly thinking that he could call it the quits with Aydın Arı if he can manage to shoot a successful art film. Because Aydın Arı; his ex assistant, has been promoted as a world famous film director. To make things worse, he has that gut feeling that Handan is failing in love with this young and cool director. So, he’ll play the biggest gamble of his life and go for broke for his new project. This new project is a “art-house” film which he believe by heart that will make tremendous impact on both national and international community. He’ll put his profession, family, reputation, love and everything and set off to realise his “major work” in order to reclaim them once and for all. He would have turned into a reckless Don Quixote who would make all sacrifices to complete his film…

“He touched his glass… tea had already gone cold.
He leaned back again. Watching the waters of Bosphorus his eyes were shimmering like swords under the rays of the sun. Those were the glances filled with pain, grudge and feeling of having been lost.
Masum knew that an artisan could only become matured by continuously causing difficulties oneself. But was there a way that would enable to take that phrase back, which was told by that Marxist philosopher whom he admired adorably in the past, for the benefit of his own art now? Well, it was too late for those times of declaration of immobilisation or love by means of poems. Train had long left the station. Well, let’s assume that it was a success for a minute; but would not he feel ashamed of himself after all those years in this business that tuned him into a boiled lobster? Wrecking his brains out with all those, he suddenly recalled that annoying question asked by that other philosopher he also adored: “Could soul die for a moment?”
After all, in all of those films that he shot over the years, during which his soul was all dead, he only cared for commercial concerns. Art! Alas. At least he was acting in full honesty in judging himself. Naturally, such idealist nuances and fineness could only be found in his works if he really did insist upon the same. That could only be possible when one would look at things with maximum sympathy and minimum scrutiny. But what about those contemporary young directors? Aydın Arı and his contemporaries… –he silently swore at Aydın Arı- they were challenging the story with amateur players at almost no cost; simply roughing up the film festivals as to say… This contemporary Turkish cinema, in the hands of those young guys, was now confining that huge old Yeşilçam era inside some meaningless brackets and totally ignoring it. Every movie shot by those guys were rising up like a wave in Europe and all around the world. That was something that Masum had dreamed of his entire professional career. He knew he had to accept the fact that what he had failed to do was now being easily done by some others, like his ex assistant Aydın Arı, -he swore at him from within-. A ground swell in depths of the cinema had suddenly changed direction, turning everything upside down…” (S. 65)

Masum was trying to get rid of that ongoing feeling of imperious dilemma by going to that old café by the Bosporus shore every now and then and muse there for hours…

“He wrote as follows:
It’s because that pain makes a man aware. Sorrows open one’s eyes… Eyes of sorrows, not the men, are always open. It is only the hopelessness that makes one wake from the sleep of routine. It is the pain that causes this distantness which gets in between the man and articles to turn into a distance again. That’s the one and only way that one can only begin to see. One can get to that place, called by the wise man as distant lands; the world, through there. But world can be a distant land only when it is in sorrow. Wise men and scientists; all those great men, are aware of that distance in between eternity and themselves. Their blood gets even heavier with the misery and sorrow of living hand in hand and arm in arm with eternity. It is this very misery and sorrow that force them to sit with their legs crossed and subsided into the bottom of the world all motionless. That sorrow is this sorrow. Mine just subsided…”
Masum left it there without completing.
He left it there just before he was due to be placed at a higher ground. He had just about managed to deactivate his conscience on that road; that sweet misleading road leading to ego delirium due to sorrow.
He had left that chain of thoughts long afterwards. He was about to become breathless. As if that strange feeling; a feeling that he was not ready for, had filled, inflated his body in a tangible way.
He gratefully kept on staring at the rays of sun –but this time without any thoughts, by just joining in the feast of his eyes- cascading through the leaves of plane tree…” (Page 72)

While demand for TV series shot by Masum has been declining, the fame of that internationally acclaimed young director of that ever rising “New Cinema”; Masum’s ex assistant Aydın Arı, is on the increase. So much so that he’s now highly admired by Masum’s wife Handan, too. A dangerous process in which Masum stands to lose all he’s got commences. Masum reads some news about Aydın Arı having been giving a major prize by a festival held in Germany…

“Head of that assistant boy, which stood stooped forward once upon a time in the past in his presence, was now replaced with Yılmaz Güney’s head. That very same posture Yılmaz Güney displayed upon receiving his prize at Cannes! He was smiling. He was sure that he was on top. His eyes shone with joy. His left arm, without any gratitude at all, was raised up together with the arm of that famous Dresden woman.
That poor sculpture has submitted before the new Cinema. Woman’s facial expression read as if to say “He Deserved Me”! She was just like a newly discovered stunner: she kept silent in good manners with her eyes looking enticingly cool. Turned into a wreck, the nerves of Masum joined up that posture of the sculpture and Handan in depth of his conscience for a brief moment! “Bitc…” –he pulled him self together. That light which reflected off the naked shoulders of the sculpture hit him right in the eyes. This time round he pronounced that word sotto voce: “Bitch!”
That scene seemed magnificent, menacing and, even worse, sustainable. Sure, they could have sustained it! Seesaw, which lifted him and Handan higher, was now pulling him down. Probable that everything was going upside down. He carefully read the writing for a few times: “DRESDEN VICTORY OF YOUNG DIRECTOR… AYDIN ARI, THE SHINING STAR OF TURKISH CINEMA OF RECENT YEARS HAS BEEN AWARDED WITH GRAND PRIZE WITH “THE SCENT OF WOMAN”! PRIZE HAD BROAD REPURCUSSION ALL AROUND THE WORLD… HAVING SAID THAT HE SCORED A HISTORUC VICTORY FOR TURKISH CINEMA…”
“… Son of a bitch…” murmured Masum…” (Page 74)

Masum is completely broke… in order to shoot that art film he’s been dreaming of he convinces Naz; his platonic love that he promised to make famous and an ex-convict Servet who served a long sentence for murder. But the things will not go as planned for this time round Servet will fall in love with Naz which in turn Masum will get into further trouble with his morbid love…

“For Servet, logic had naturally turned into a technique of survival after his first murder. That cold wit had become his one and only sanctuary against the hostility of the world. No place for any sentiments there. He’d been through all kinds of thorny jails and saved his ass from in-cell execution, as well as the fights and injuries in aeration corridors thanks to his senses and quick wit. But now, in that dim corner of the car ferry, there wasn’t a single trace of that cold wit as his massive body stood frozen because of that sensation, one single sensation. All such things had long gone.

He’d never even considered once that he might eventually lose that cold wit and logic in passage of time for he’d been a man of sole dialectics for so many years. Now those firmly sealed gates of cold wit that had never let a single drop of sentiment to pass through were susceptible to that sudden explosion. Sentiments that were accumulated over years within that tough and pitiless lock of cold wit had turned into a massive flood following the opening of all those gates with his entire body and mind turned into a wreck.
Servet was sleeping in beaches: Thinking of Naz only.
He was mystified over that very day, the very moment that they had met on the set… her mimics, the appearing of her dimples like spring flowers every time she smiled. He lied down still on the sand constantly thinking of the details of her mimics, and of that spoiled and prankish giggles came off her throat.
He had no idea when he was to drop off to sleep. Moreover, he was unable to guess when his sleep had ended and what had happened during that time.
It was all because he had nothing left in his mind but Naz! Such that, Naz had entirely took away those meaningful differences between his wakefulness and sleepiness. Entire life of this poor man was covered by that sense of futileness.
He was laying still on his back on the sand all ruined in pain and reverie with his arms opened over his special cross in a kind of being a self-created martyr.
For the first time in his life, that feeling of passion had taken the form of some “specific eternity”. He was laying down still on sands for hours on end, without anything to hold but the stars and, without any other amusement to escape to but the time on which he tried his teeth in vain…” (Page 103)

That big gamble of Masum; the cinema film titled “The Last Days of Innocence” he had shot in dire straights that was supposed to enable Masum to recover everything he had lost, had fizzled out.

“As the sector would call it, Masum’s film had “plonked”.
Box office report said that “this interesting experimental work” was only wondered by 16.854 viewers. It continued as flows: “… it’s highly probable that this number was achieved due to director’s being a well known man in the industry, as well as some news / promotional articles that were printed in some leftist and marginal newspapers and magazines…”
In other words, only that number of viewers had wondered about the ideas of that marginal director who tried to revenge the cheating of his wife by means of art. Remaining some 79 million people did not edge in to find that strained work interesting!

He swore at himself by hissing in teeth.
Masum was especially curious about one of those promotional articles published in the newspapers which were cut off and attached to the report: the article written by Tunca Can Berkmen.
He was a long time friend of Masum.

Masum noticed that article on the heater core situated in front of one of those windows overlooking the skyscrapers and began to read it.
While reading it, he was naturally withdrawn in the hidden footsteps of those old reckonings that he’d been through with Berkmen. Indeed, that article contained a subtext that readers won’t understand.
During his time as a TV series director, Masum had tried for years to tackle that issue of why on earth Can had kept in silence towards him.
He wasn’t in a rush. It was all there in the text. The article was a detailed breakdown of all his own relationships in terms of Can.
Can Berkmen had also included in between the lines of his article that ideological revenge of fractional struggle which in fact should have been finished years ago, as well as that feeling of revenge arising from that resentment that Can had during a discussion on cinema they had in near past. Article also included that fatal fake evidence of their remaining faithful to their old friendship, as well as honest observations on those basic artistic shortfalls that could not have been covered even by this friendship.
As an old rival, stubborn Masum had already flared up by the first paragraph.
In his long review, Berkmen, at one point appreciating a specific scene of “The Last Days of Innocence”, in another point he was drawing attention to contradictions at that specific scene “that formed a kind of gas leak”! Naturally, all those fine points were not slip past the notice of Masum… for he had pegged Can so precisely for such a long time.
Having completely roosted on heater core, Masum carried on reading with his chin lightly held in his left hand.
All the while expressing that acceptable –successful- journey of artistic obsession, Berkmen was also reminding the reader of those similar scenes from other movies in which the obsession theme was treated in a more realistic manner. He was drawing attention to those “more realistic samples” by underlining them in a bolder and colourful manner by changing his well known aristocratic approach. That “son of the Pimp Can” was deliberately going on and on. Now he had captured Masum after all those years and he was turning him over and over again. “God-less bastard!”
By this time, he was crouched on heater core! All frown; he was locked in that newspaper article cutting. He was rubbing his moustache, that scuffle in his mind was causing his facial lines to move all up and down.
Can Berkmen; that old pal who already turned into a violent oath inside Masum before he’d reached halfway through the article, had already jammed Masum there and then; right on top of a heater core smacking him in full joy.
Also being a “Son of a Bitch!”, Can Berkmen –Assistant girl and others working on the film set again looked at master Masum in fear!- while respectfully saluting the strong scenes of the movie in a brief manner; he was at the same time, carrying on with his seduction of the weak scenes check by jowl as if he did not have the heart for ending that sexual relationship with those scenes at all…” (Pages 105, 106 and, 107)

Masum’s plans do not thrive at all. So much so that he couldn’t even stop his film, in which he had hoped for emancipation, ending up with Handan and his new lover Aydın Arı. That night of premier shall become the final of all the things happened.

“Even if the gun had been fired in the middle of the street somewhere instead of the movie theatre, still a very few people would have heard the sound of the shots anyway, for gabbling of the crowd was echoing on the facades of the buildings surrounding the street on both sides like giant cliffs which made that long valley deafened to all other things except that self-specific noises.

That was why those several rounds of sinister shots were heard by all the viewers inside the movie theatre and a handful of personnel slumbering in the cloakroom.
Those personnel were also to see soon that those massive gates of the theatre were to vomit the crowd!.

As they were going inside, stretchers taken off the ambulances were already being carried in with two medics on each one. Soon after, in front of the entrance gates, gathered were the reporters with cameras and microphones in their hands, as well as a large crowd of curious onlookers.

As the traffic of people running outside the movie theatre in fear had eased off, the crowd gathered outside were pushed back a little to make way for safety line.

It didn’t take long for first one of those stretchers to show up at the gates… followed with the others.
As it appeared, more ambulances were called to the scene. Three more ambulances had pulled next to the initial ones.

As the police took aside the safety line, that very first stretcher to come out from inside is taken inside to nearest ambulance by medics, being pushed upwards on rails. As the stretcher was pushed up on the rails to inside the ambulance, one could see through that small opening of the blanket those eyes of Masum that will no longer see and that diffused forehead with blood still dribbling out…” (Page 122)