Blu-Ray Review – Law of the Border
Law of the Border
Founded by filmmaker Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project’s goal is to find, restore and preserve films from around the world. To date the non-profit organization has restored over 750 films from around the globe. Working in coordination with the Criterion Collection, the World Cinema Project has now released 12 movies. The first six: Touki Bouki, Redes, A River Called Titas, Dry Summer, Trances and The Housemaid were released as volume No. 1. Volume No. 2 containing: Insiang¸ Mysterious Object at Noon, Revenge, Limite, Law of the Border, and Taipei Story has now dropped giving us six more gems of classic and obscure cinema from various countries, in some cases having survived authoritarian regimes deliberate attempts at suppression and destruction.
While this is a boxset with the films presented together, each movie is wholly of itself unique and speaks to specific ideas and emotions that embody the people who made them.
Set against the backdrop of the Turkish-Syrian border, Lütfi Akad and Yilmaz Güney’s Law of the Border concerns itself with the story of a man named Hidir, played by Güney, who also co-wrote with director Akad, and his struggle to maintain a village’s economic existence. Taut, poignant and filled with a surprising amount of action, Akad and Güney’s film aims to excite its viewers but it also aims to draw lingering thoughts of economic, societal concerns that ask larger questions of what societal conditions impose on ideas of personal responsibility and duty to one’s community.
Hidir and a group of men from their small village have taken to smuggling across the Syrian border to make ends meet for their families. The soil in their lands is dry and infertile, prohibiting agricultural economic survival, even a local sheep herder is having trouble getting his flock to appropriate resources to keep them alive. In the midst of this strife the local constable is trying to push a school on the village for its idle youth and broker a deal with Hidir and the local rich elite to allow the villagers to grow crops on his fertile land in favor of Hidir stopping his border smuggling.
It’s the kind of idealistic setup that’s ripe for failure under the rhetoric that a person will always inherently be who they are and subjugation of the rich over the poor will always be met with repercussions that parry such subjugation. Güney previously to this film was already famous for starring in violent, genre pics and reportedly the first draft of the screenplay he brought to Akad to make resembled something closer to a straight action film. Under Akad’s guidance the movie morphed into something combining a melodrama of family and survival with a gangster movie situated around smuggling, double crosses and shootouts.
Created on the cusp of political upheaval in Turkey, Güney eventually found himself fleeing the country for France with only one copy of this movie surviving a purge of destruction by the government of all of Güney’s films along with filmmakers like Akad and others. Güney gives the perfectly stoic performance the role demands and adds elements of both gentility and dominance. Hidir may be up against conditions beyond his control but he’s not the sort to allow that to dictate his options.
Akad’s direction of the story places most of the emotion in an objective stance. Wide, static shots put the story bluntly in front of the viewer with little cutting to close-ups for subjective connection. Shots aren’t staged for perspective of character but as honest presentations of story. At the same time it’s not so much realism that Akad seems to be aiming for as much as the heightened sense of reality surrounding the nature of artifice inherent in telling stories. Akad and Güney collectively crafted a very real and lively document of their artistic expression, a movie of unusual power due to both its subject matter and its sheer ability to exist.
This comes in a digital transfer made in a 2k resolution scanned from the only positive print to survive the Turkish coup d’état in 1980, in which most movies made at the time were seized and destroyed. Extensive restorative work was done to repair the print and the result, while thoroughly scratched and filled with lines is otherwise stunning and given the film’s existence really just means we’ll extremely lucky to even get to see this and should enjoy it no matter how it looks or sounds.