Bir Başkadır or Ethos is a Turkish limited television series directed by Berkun Oya. The series mainly focuses on the spirit of a culture, the customs, the traditions, and the beliefs, channeling themselves and taking a physical form through the characters. Ethos draws our attention towards a kind of systematic suppression. A suppression that has been induced by these customs and traditions. It moves through an unknown channel into the personality of an individual and before he understands the situation wholly, it takes hold of him, entangling him in a cobweb.
Berkun Oya, who has also written the series talks about the need for recognizance in human beings and their quest to attain it. He talks about the confluence of a traditionalist and progressive ideologies. He explores the implausible idea of merging two outlooks which have been in conflict with each other since the inception of what we call, our society.
Meryem(Oyku Karayel), sporting a hijab, starts to visit a psychiatrist because her doctor advised her to do so. She does not come from a very affluent background. Her brother Yasin(Fatih Artman), works as a bouncer in a bar, and she works as a housemaid. It was a very dubious move from her part to visit a psychiatrist. She belongs to a culture where these practises and propositions are deemed to be against the essence of the religion. Her Hodja, the Islamic teacher/priest, had condemned this practice of visiting the psychiatrist. She is sceptical and scared in telling the Hodja about it as if she has committed some grievous crime.
Meryem’s sister in law, Ruhiya(Funda Eryigit), suffers from a Persistent Depressive Disorder, due to a past trauma. Yasin, her husband often feels incapacitated. This helplessness of not being able to do anything about his wife’s deteriorating health and the negative atmosphere of the house becomes a factor over which he is seen losing his cool constantly.
Meryem’s psychiatrist, Peri(Defne Kayalar), on the other hand, despises her traditional outlook. She finds it conventional, orthodox and somewhere blames girls like Maryem, for the gender inequality that is existent in our society. Peri is lonely and feels void due to the lack of an emotional connection, which she hopes to find in her patients and other professional relationships. Even Peri visits a psychiatrist named Gulbin, maybe to just vent out what is inside, as she lacks a companion in her life, a person who can listen, a person who can share beyond the professional limit. She misses that comfort of returning home to somebody.
Gulbin(Tulin Ozen), an independent self-made woman, professionally a psychiatrist, is the only one to have gone to school in her family. Her sister Gulan somewhere feels that Gulbin looks down upon the rest of the family, as she is the only one to have received a formal education. She doesn’t approve of Gulbin’s lifestyle, her relationships and her basic ideologies which sometimes are not consistent with what has been written in the holy book and propagated by the preachers of religion.
Sinan(Alican Yocesoy), is a reserved and reticent philanderer of sorts. His opulence has helped him in maintaining a social circle where he often lurks for pleasure-seeking. But he maintains a wall, beyond which nobody can see. He does have physical relationships but there isn’t an ounce of emotional attachment. It is not that he is a lecher or libertine. He has become emotionally blank. There is nothing left to share. There is a vacuum, a kind of darkness which he scared of sharing. And rightly so, as the world often disregards these dark and often complex aspects of one’s personality.
Meryam works as a house help in Sinan’s house and often sees Gulbin spending some time with Sinan.
The narrative of Ethos is like this string of beads consisting of these characters, who are connected in more than one way. They cross each other’s paths often unknown of the fact that how they all are linked together by the different facets of repressed emotions and feelings.
An Irreparable Damage
The director, Berkun Oya, builds a narrative where he reiterates the harm caused by suppressed feelings. Every human being has a desire to express (even the introvert and non-expressive ones). Failure to do so results in irritation at lower levels and can severely damage one’s personality if not checked at the right time.
This incapability of a person to express can be due to many reasons. It can be due to a lack of companionship, due to a lack of understanding or maybe because the feelings do not reconcile with the customs of the society or religion and henceforth an individual chooses to hide it.
In Ethos, the director analyses these facets of suppressed emotions, in relation to each other. Where on one side Peri doesn’t have a companion, Meryem is scared that she would oust a religious sentiment or teaching. Where Ruhiya lacks the ability to put her plight into words, Sinan just abstains from the emotionally saturating act of keeping his vulnerabilities on the forefront, as it is much easier to dwell in greener pastures.
But this act of coerced repression often causes damage that someone can’t even fathom. It breaks a person into fragments and causes an irreparable loss.
As the narrative of Ethos unfoldes itself, it unravels the complex personality of the characters with it. The story does not cover different events as much as it explores the traits of different characters. Events or actions in the lives of the characters are shown in a way that it becomes a tool to know the character in a better manner. With every episode, Berkun Oya tries to look beyond the wall. He tries to explore that hidden area, which encloses those suppressed feelings. Not only that, the narrative tries to find answers to some very abstruse questions. Questions which are not generally asked or considered worthy to be asked.
Berkun Oya talks about a brittle point and how it is so necessary to curtail the damage before it becomes almost impossible to recoil and start afresh. It is only after the narrative entangles the knot, makes it easier for us to look through, that we understand the convolutions of a human mind. We understand the motivations behind the actions of Maryem, Peri or Sinan.
Berkun Oya, not only breaks into the traditionalist attitude towards a person suffering from depression but also shatters some stereotypical mindsets when it comes to mental health.
Yes, the affluent can have mental health issues.
Metal health has nothing to do with the financial capacity of a person. Not only that, even a psychiatrist can suffer from a mental disorder or might have difficulty in coping up.
Firstly, if we talk about developing or under-developed nations, mental health is still not seen as something for which you need to consult a professional. People are unaware and sometimes merely reluctant to address it because they do not give it that much importance.
There exists a lack of understanding in the society when it comes to ailments which have only behavioural symptoms. It is just seen as an individual having a bad temperament or mood swings. Little do they understand that it is not in their hands. They too want to be free from the shackles, it’s just that somebody needs to pull them out of the abyss.
We often fail to understand the essence of empowerment. The process of empowerment cannot be generalised. One cannot say that removing the hijab or being agnostic or merely being an atheist would lead to empowerment. A woman wearing a hijab, who accepts change, isn’t blindfolded by faith, knows to reason is far better than an atheist who is an endorser of regressive ideologies.
Some might feel empowered by wearing the hijab and some might find their liberation by taking it off. The key to it is not putting anybody down and respecting the ways and means of people even if we don’t approve of it. One is entitled to their opinion but it should not be a hurdle in the way of another individual. The need of the hour is that every individual should learn to be different. Every person is unique in their own way and one mustn’t be forced to comply with the set standards. The beauty of humankind is in their diversity. Imagine the monotony of a world where there exists only one culture, people think on the same lines, wear the same clothes, and have common sensibilities. Sometimes the conflict itself adds much-needed color to our life.
‘Ethos’ Ending Explained
One might feel that the director opted for a convenient ending. He reached a point in his narrative where he just wanted to untie every knot and resolve all the issues. But still, it’s a breezy ride, never overemphasising or exaggerating. Thankfully the agenda is never to make it melodramatic.
The performances made Ethos an extremely savory experience. Every actor leaves an impact and their minuscule nuances stay with you. The performances act as a bridge, it takes you to the other side of the aisle and helps in a better understanding of the problems related to mental health. The music by Cem Yilmazer is not only thought-provoking but it confluences with the narrative to divulge details that otherwise would have been camouflaged.
Ethos with it’s eight episodes of approximately 40 minute each, is not only intriguing but acts as a cognitive study of human psychology, due to which it is of utmost significance in contemporary times.
Ethos is streaming on Netflix.
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