An exercise in live-or-Memorex line-blurring, Turkish filmmaker Asli Özge’s drama irises in on the lives of three men—henpecked taxi driver Umut (Umut Ilker), lonely-hearts cop Murat (Murat Tokgöz) and aimless teenager Fikret (Fikret Portakal)—trying to get by in modern-day Istanbul. Each member of the trio falls within different social and economic strata, from petite bourgeoisie to slightly below the poverty line. Yet they all spend their days traipsing back and forth over the Bosphorus Bridge, the highly symbolic structure that connects Europe and Asia. Caught between two worlds, these everyday Turks do the best they can in their own personal limbos.
Conceived originally as a documentary, Men on the Bridge morphed into a fiction feature as the filmmaker got to know her subjects; she then wrote a script based on their experiences and cast these gents as their semifictional counterparts. (The policeman is played by his real-life brother, however, as actual officers weren’t allowed to appear on camera.) The result is a fascinating, if somewhat scattered, meta attempt to straddle modernism and realism, creating an aesthetic purgatory oddly similar to the film’s geographical one. Such neither-fish-nor-fowl efforts yield some great scenes—notably a blind date that fizzles into failure—but as an oblique critique of cultural continental drift, it works better as a cinematic experiment than it does as commentary.
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