This film is about the rise of the Ottoman Empire after their capture of Constantinople. Now for everyone who slept through history class, our friend Wikipedia tells us that Constantinople is the old name for Istanbul which at the time – 1453 AD – was part of the Byzantine Empire. Not entirely happy with this state of affairs and sick to death of his neighbours, Sultan Mehmet II decides to conquer Constantinople and make it a part of his Ottoman empire.
This film’s so bad, it’s a pretty great ‘what not to do’ in filmmaking. Firstly, the camerawork, which just swoops all over the place and changes perspective with no consideration for coherence , is highly disorienting and edited in a very distracting, choppy way. The lighting which, in accordance with the times, is sourced from candles, often looks electric and the colour schemes look awful. For the most part, there’s no fancy colour work or a dominant colour theme until we get into the dream sequences and flashbacks and suddenly everything goes haywire.
One flashback in particular was all dark, muted shades of grey punctuated with blazing orange fires; a lot like when wannabe photographers discover how to selectively de-saturate pictures on Photoshop. The compositing work is of a quality you’d expect from an underfunded TV show – if you’re going to be filming from different camera angles in front of a green screen, you’d better know a little something about perspective so your background doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. The CGI work is so fake, you can tell exactly which parts of each shot were built in a computer and as a result, the film often looks animated.
Things aren’t much better character-wise. The love triangle between two rival soldiers and the girl they both fall for, stars two guys who look strikingly similar and are styled almost identically. Their fight towards the end looks like a guy battling his evil twin and needless to say, it’s almost impossible to keep track of.
Also, what is it with Turkish media and guys with long hair and bulging biceps? Their love interest, the daughter of a weapons manufacturer – who dresses up as a guy to defy gender norms and help her father build a big ass canon – just looks like a chick in a bandana instead of a boy. What’s more, she cuddles with her boyfriend in the middle of an encampment full of soldiers who are apparently convinced that she’s a guy called Idris. Either the filmmakers think we’re imbeciles or the Ottomans were a lot cooler with homosexuality than we were lead to believe.
Then we get to the fact that the film is blatant propaganda with one of the most infuriating endings we’ve seen in a while. After the Ottomans win the war and gain access to Constantinople, their Sultan waltzes into where the women, kids and elderly are huddled and assures them that they won’t be forced to convert to Islam. The Romans’ expressions of fear suddenly transform into dazzling smiles as if the man in front of them wasn’t responsible for killing half the men in their town.
Contrast this with the aforementioned, gender bending female character that is celebrated for nursing a grudge against the Romans that razed her town and for living for the day she finally gets her revenge; and the film’s full hypocrisy comes into view. So apparently, war and imperialism are all fine and dandy if it’s the Muslims doing it. In fact, it’s such a beautiful thing, the natives accept their wisdom in doing so while the blood of their soldiers is still fresh.
This review only scratches the surface; we could have written a lot more about how awful this film was but we’ll just content ourselves with saying long live terrible Egyptian films; at least they aren’t dubbed.