A New Teenage Survivalist Fairytale: Reha Erdem's Jin

By Ward, Sarah | Metro Magazine, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

A New Teenage Survivalist Fairytale: Reha Erdem's Jin


Ward, Sarah, Metro Magazine


LIKE THE FABLED HEROINE WHOSE PLIGHT SHE SHARES, JIN WEARS A RED HOOD AND LIVES IN A LAND THAT BOTH HARBOURS AND HARMS HER. IN THIS 2013 TURKISH FILM, WE WATCH A POWERFUL YOUNG PROTAGONIST CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE AS MAN BATTLES NATURE AND MEN WAR WITH OTHER MEN

Agile and assertive, seventeen-year-old Jin (Deniz Hasguler) is a warrior. Vulnerable despite her destructive upbringing, she is also an innocent. Fighting may be her livelihood, with her formative years spent in the thick of a resistance cell rallying through the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, but combat is not the kind of life she desires. When she first graces the frames of Reha Erdem's 2013 film that bears her name, Jin is desperate for another existence.

Silently and with the stoic exterior that hides her haunted outlook, she slips away, in the cover of night, from the rebels who later come to form her makeshift family. Jin may be armed with the weaponry of her training, but she remains barely prepared for the harsh realities of her mountain-trekking journey--and for the world outside the confines of her freedom-fighting. A lone figure in a hostile land, she struggles against the monsters in her path, finding unexpected solace in her surroundings.

Men channel their aggression towards her in the form of attacks and unwanted advances, both in the desolation of the wilderness and the supposed civilisation that she seeks then eschews. Only the array of animals she encounters, which watch her endeavours with a knowing gaze, seem to understand the extent of her yearning for a different life.

The titular figure of the near-silent but always sumptuous Jin is a spirited protagonist of deeds over dialogue, but she is also a symbol of striving for something more than she has been saddled with. Thematically, she embodies the overlooked centre in the heart of a battle that is as much between warring factions as it is between man and nature. Contextually, Jin represents the blameless belle of many a fairytale and fable, reinvented as the enterprising heroine of modern teen quests and rendered as the enduring solo adventurer of the emerging survivalist genre. She is everything: lost but determined, lucid yet out of her depth, lingering as well as exploring. Yet, in all her shades and facets, Jin forever remains an enigma. She is everywhere but belongs nowhere. To her, safety and security are intangible concepts.

The seventh film from Istanbul-born writer/director Reha Erdem, Jin--which won Best Feature Film at the 2013 Adelaide Film Festival--is both as singular and varying as its eponymous lead character, synthesising its elements and influences into a distinctive piece of contemplative cinema. A driving force in the film is its obvious consideration of the interplay between humanity and the environment, but its methods for making this meaning and message are many. Just as Erdem's resume flits from supernatural connections (Oh, Moon!, 1988) to moral quandaries (A Run for Money, 1999), situational comedy (What's a Human Anyway?, 2004) to observational meditation (Times and Winds, 2006), and mournful coming-of-age portraits (My Only Sunshine, 2008) to offbeat ponderings on otherworldly powers (Kosmos, 2010), Jin constructs its content as the culmination of both the protagonist's experiences and the filmmaker's cinematic history.

There exists a lengthy and proud tradition of reimagined myths and restyled warning parables--fantastical adventures and cautionary tales finding new lives not just in customary adaptations of their original interpretations, but also in reshaped forms that reflect contemporary times. Again, the parallels between the film's narrative type and its character's progression are evident, both transcending tradition and reaching towards the refreshed and revitalised. Amid its myriad outcomes, Jin achieves this feat to become the epitome of the new teen survivalist fairytale.

Erdem's matching of his film with its source text's status as a fable is hardly hidden, the imprint of a particular famed work that was first published by Charles Perrault but more commonly ascribed to the Brothers Grimm always apparent. …

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