“Cici” is a Turkish-language drama film that presents a warm spirit with enjoyable visuals but falls short of anything brilliant due to a lack of depth and content. It follows the story of a family that grows up in a countryside home before moving away to the city, and then returning to their native house many years later. While ‘Cici’s strongest points are made to be the relations between the characters and memories that are often kept suppressed, there is a sense of lopsided execution here, as not all relations are given equal amounts of exploration.
‘Cici’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Bekir is a patriarch living with his wife Havva, his eldest daughter Saliha, and two sons, Kadir and Yusuf. Bekir’s days are spent farming in the fields and then in front of his beloved television, where he even sleeps every night, watching various programs before dozing off. Like all orthodox men with traditional values, Bekir is extremely harsh on his wife and children whenever they do something different from his wishes. Havva, on the other hand, is quite the opposite character, as she wants her children to pursue education in the big city of Ankara, while Bekir thinks all that is a waste of time. When the wife reveals that she knows the man visits the city at times to satiate his sexual desires with other women, Bekir tries to prove his greatness by saying that he never hits his wife, unlike the other men in their society. To him, the objectives of all his children should be to work in the fields, help their parents as much as possible, and then grow up to take care of them in their old age. Among the children, Saliha does not care much for a college education in the city, but Kadir seems determined to be different from his father in all ways possible, while Yusuf is still too young to understand education beyond his immediate dream of driving a car.
One day, Bekir visits a friend in the village and sees a young boy with a beautiful singing voice working in the fields. This boy, Cemil, happens to be the nephew of the friend who is reluctant to keep the boy in his family. Taking a fancy to him, Bekir hires Cemil to work for him in his fields along with his own children and starts to treat the young boy like his own son. What remains unknown to him is that Cemil also happens to be the lover of his daughter Saliha and that the two used to secretly meet at night in their barn. This new role for Cemil certainly breaks their love affair over time, but before Saliha can react much, a bigger tragedy hits the family. Bekir, the otherwise healthy and hardworking patriarch, gets terribly sick from a cold one night and eventually passes away after a few days of suffering. With nothing holding them back any longer and also to get away from the grief of losing a dear one, Havva moves to the city with her children. Many years after that, the family returns to their house when Kadir, now a filmmaker, decides to shoot his new film in this location.
What Old Memories Return When The Family Spends Time at Their Native House?
When Kadir returns to shoot his film in their ancestral house, which they have still kept and maintained, he informs his siblings as well. Although Yusuf is unable to visit, Saliha comes with her own teenage daughter, Naz, and Havva, as she stays with Saliha in Istanbul now. Although Havva was not very excited about visiting the house where she had spent so many years of her life, Kadir had convinced her to not only return but also play the role of a mother in his film. The most glaring memory that all the characters have is of a brutal act by Bekir, which had left a grave mark on his children. Bekir had a passion for photography and videography, and he had bought a video camera to record everyday moments with his family. Kadir had always been interested in these cameras, and this video camera in particular, even though he was not allowed to touch it or remove it from his father’s drawers. Every time Bekir saw the boy with the camera, he would reprimand him verbally as well as physically, and the father grew a general dislike for Kadir due to his disobedience. Perhaps this was why Kadir developed a childish jealousy towards Cemil, who would follow Bekir’s instructions very diligently, and the father, therefore, liked him more. One day, Kadir took the hose pipe used to water the crops and started spraying water on Cemil as a joke, but Bekir took notice of this and decided to intervene in an immature way. Bringing the video camera from his room, Bekir recorded his actions while humiliatingly drenching Kadir with the same hose pipe and making fun of him. All of this had happened in front of all the children, and it was Havva who ran out and stopped her husband. Along with this treatment, Kadir was also punished and made to stand outside the house during the cold night, but it was the humiliation that stayed on in Kadir’s memory. Many years later, when he was making the film now, he was shooting a similar scene of a father spraying his son with water from a hose pipe. In an interesting example of subjective memory, this scene in Kadir’s film takes place in extremely cold weather, amidst falling snow, and it does not have any of Kadir’s mischievous actions which had started the whole ordeal.
When Havva sees the shooting of this scene from her window, she interprets it to be a direct disrespect to her late husband, as Kadir’s reimagination of the events shows Bekir to be way harsher than he actually was. Back when Bekir was still alive, Havva used to speak out against her husband’s orthodox beliefs and wishes as much as she could, but it was never her intention to disrespect the man. After all these many years, when she is an elderly lady who sometimes jumps between subjects of conversations incoherently, her love for her late husband seems to have grown all the more. She breaks down during the shooting of a scene in which she is supposed to take care of the man playing her husband’s role, and when Kadir tries to console her, she slaps her son in front of the whole crew. Havva grows more unwell from here on as she struggles with her memory and then gradually with her mental stability. When she would complain about her husband’s frequent visits to the city, Havva probably suspected Bekir to have had an affair with a nurse from the hospital, and once she had visited the hospital when Bekir was admitted. Here, she had seen the nurse taking his blood pressure count with an old-school machine and the visual of her using the hand rubber pump stuck on with Havva. To the woman, this perhaps remained as a reminder of everything she had wanted to be, of professional life in the city, but things that she could not ultimately achieve in her lifetime. While she was back at the house with the shooting team, she saw an air blower used to clean cameras and removed it to keep with herself. Later on, when she has completely lost her stability due to old age, Havva uses this blower to recreate the same act of the nurse on her grandson and gets amused by doing it.
Although the shoot at the village house seems to conclude, Kadir has to stop work when he gets too overwhelmed by the memories of his childhood and also due to a fallout with his team. The global pandemic also strikes during this time, and after two years since the shoot, Kadir is once again back at his childhood house, this time as a man struggling with financial and professional losses in life. He informs his siblings this time as well, and along with Saliha, Naz, and Havva (who now suffers from a cognitive impairment), Yusuf also returns with his wife and son. While the meeting serves as a reunion, the three siblings also seem to have the intention of selling the house on their minds. In particular, Yusuf seems convinced that this is the best time to sell the native house and get the money, as the man probably needs the finances due to the unstable job market after the COVID pandemic. There is a hint of an unsettled married relationship between him and his wife, but no more of it is explored in “Cici,” and his wife and son also play no more important role.
The eldest child, Saliha, seems to be the one strongest at holding her life straight among all the siblings, and she is also the one most determined to keep the values of her family intact. It is Saliha who does not want to sell the native house right away, in tune with Bekir, who had told Havva on his deathbed never to sell the house since they had built it with their own hands with a lot of struggle and love. But Saliha has an emptiness in life with regard to her romantic relationship, and this has a direct connection with her childhood. After having moved to the city and grown up, she married a man there and had her daughter with him. However, this relationship did not last, and she got divorced and raised Naz by herself. As she herself admits, Saliha could never forget the innocent love that she had for Cemil during her teenage years, and the grief of suddenly having to end the relationship remained with her forever. Cemil, who had lived on in the village and had grown up to be the caretaker of the local graveyard, visited the family house both during the shooting and also two years later. In a heartfelt confession to Saliha during the second visit, Cemil recounts how he had gone to the city and even tracked his lover down in her nursing college but could not build up the courage to go talk to her when he saw her smart city friends. A little while later, when Cemil meets with Havva, it is revealed that the mother had played a role in the ending of Cemil and Saliha’s teenage love. The boy used to leave a small stone in front of a specific window on nights when he would come to the barn, and Saliha would understand that he had come by seeing this stone. However, Havva had learned of this, and it was she who would regularly remove the stone from the place and therefore had created a misunderstanding between the two. The reason why she would do so is probably that Havva did not want Saliha to develop any attachments in the village, as she wanted the girl to have a modern city life. Saliha had told her father that she did not want to attend college, and Havva perhaps understood that her daughter would never leave the village unless she was detached from her lover.
‘Cici’ Ending Explained: How Had Bekir Actually Died?
Like every other night, Bekir had put on a raging fire in the fireplace and had shut all the windows, then sat down in front of his favorite television on that fateful night all those years back. But, someone in the house had then put the fire out and opened the windows in the middle of the night, and the terrible cold immediately affected Bekir. The man fell sick the very next morning, and this ultimately became the reason for his death a few days later. Later on, during the shooting of Kadir’s film at the house, his niece Naz was given the responsibility of shooting behind-the-scenes footage. With a lot of love and admiration, Naz had been trying to take a video of herself with her mother and grandmother when Havva started talking about seemingly unrelated things, and Saliha had to go out to get hold of her glasses. When left alone in the room, Havva continued to speak about how she had been the one to have put out the fire and opened the windows on that fateful night. Although this had been recorded on the video camera, nobody had ever watched it, and Naz also did not understand any of it since she did not know how exactly her grandfather had died. Two years from then, when the family is again reunited after the pandemic, Naz goes looking for the small camera that she had used to take the BTS footage and eventually finds old video tapes. Even though her uncle had asked her not to go through his drawers (interestingly, Kadir’s possessiveness towards the cameras happens to be exactly the same as Bekir’s back in the day), Naz brings out the tapes and watches them. As was supposed to be, she watches the taped humiliation of Kadir with the hose pipe, and things now fall into place inside her head. When her grandmother confessed about her actions that night, she said things about how Kadir had to withstand the cold weather in drenched clothes because of the cruel punishment that Bekir had meted out on him. While Naz had then not known about the whole situation, she now understands that Kadir had been punished by Bekir, following which Havva had opened the windows, which made Bekir get sick and ultimately die.
The reason for Havva’s having done so seems to be a punitive measure on her own part, as a response to Bekir’s harsh punishment for his son. As a young child, Kadir had been close to Havva as he always sided with his mother against their orthodox father, and Havva was extremely hurt by her son’s suffering. Although she did have vengeful anger when she had made her husband face the same unbearable cold throughout the night, Havva was unaware of the dire consequence it would have. She had admitted to Naz of mixing a sleeping pill in Bekir’s tea that night, but that was only to keep him unaware of her opening the windows and putting out the fire. The guilt of having indirectly killed her husband stayed on in Havva and grew over the years. It was perhaps this guilt that grew her love for Bekir in her later years all the more. She did not want her son to disrespect his father’s memory, and she also could not bear the grief and guilt of acting to take care of her husband in Kadir’s film. During these later years, she would spit at and reprimand her image in front of a mirror every time, and although it seemed part of her instability at the time, this action was born out of her own conscience. At ‘Cici’s end, too, the old woman walks up to the screen where the video of her confessing her crime to Naz is kept paused, and Havva repeats the shaming of her image before then also consoling herself. While her children have their own ways of dealing with this shocking and sad revelation, Havva herself has her own way of dealing with it, as she is probably now used to living with the guilt.
“Cici” is a 2022 Drama film directed by Berkun Oya.