Master of the house: de-mythologizing the father in Turkish-German film

Celik, Sibel (2003) Master of the house: de-mythologizing the father in Turkish-German film. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The thesis sets out to answer a question: why the Turkish-German films of the last decade have without exception presented the father as impaired or absent? The parameters of the inquiry are set out in an introductory chapter, which also outlines the establishes the theoretical framework for the thesis. An account is given of the Turkish migrations of the latter half of the 20th century and the unique place occupied by Turkey in terms of postcolonial studies is emphasised.

Chapter Two defines the concept of cultural schizophrenia, a theoretical construct which bridges the divide between culturalist and psychoanalytical interpretations. Current debates concerning diaspora and identity are reviewed. The mythological grounding for the dominant position of the father in Islam is examined with particular attention to the traditional Turkish village at the time of the main labour migrations.

Chapter Three indicates how approaches to the patriarch in film have been dominated by Oedipal interpretations. Two Oedipal explanations for the phenomenon of the disappearing father are examined. The first involves the psychoanalysis of the auteur as in Freud's analysis of The Brothers Karamazov and Bergman's study of Wild Strawberries, each of which centres on the death of a dominating father figure. The second explanation focuses on the theories applied by Elsaesser and Nowell-Smith to the weakened or impaired father figure in Hollywood melodrama of the 1950s, and the possible applicability of this theoretical approach to the case of Turkish-German film. The chapter ends by detailing the shortcomings of Oedipal interpretations with regard to the non-Western family found in the writings of Jung, Deleuze and Foucault.

In Chapter Four, the representation of the strong father figure in Turkish melodrama is compared with the gradual undermining of his position in films of migration of the 1960s and 1970s. This process is illustrated through an examination of Turkish films of this period.

Chapter Five provides a detailed study of the family in Turkish-German films of the decade 1990-2000, focusing on expressions of anxiety, claustrophobia, sexual tension and neurosis, and indicating the gradual replacement of conflict and otherness by that of a positive hybridity. A classification of Turkish-German films is attempted, with particular attention to the concepts of accented cinema, transnational cinema and the 'cinema of duty' resulting from the official funding of minority projects.

The final chapter argues that neither culturalist nor symptomatic approaches can adequately explain the phenomenon of the disappearing father. It proposes that Turkish-German films should be viewed as a distinct filmic cycle, whose collective effect is a de-mythologisation of the father. This proposition entails a consideration of the approaches to myth in film and cultural studies and of an epistemological link between genre and mythopoesis.

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