Netflix’s latest Turkish comedy-drama film, “Oh Belinda,” is an interesting take on what seems to be the struggle and challenge of professional actors—to wholly become the characters that they are playing. Based on an older 1986 classic film of the same name, the 2023 Netflix rendition follows actress Dilara Basaran, whose life turns upside down after an advertisement shoot. As a film with an air of mystery, “Oh Belinda” is more concerned with the point it tries to convey than with any logic or theory about its events, and overall, it makes for a decent watch.
‘Oh Belinda’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The film begins with protagonist Dilara Basaran walking down a deserted alley in the city of Istanbul, looking rather concerned, when suddenly a flash mob breaks out, and the entire setting is revealed to be part of her celebrated theater play, “Harika and the Others.” After a night of heavy praise from critics and audiences and also of intense lovemaking with her lover and colleague Serkan, Dilara wakes up in her apartment the next morning. Going over the scripts for her upcoming works is part of her schedule, and Dilara opens up one such script, which is for her very first TV commercial. But the script and storyline that she has to play out are very off-putting for Dilara, as she has to play a docile “perfect” wife in the advertisement. Her character, Handan Gulveren, is a devoted wife and mother of two who works during the day, returns home to cook and tend to her family members, and then only at night does she give herself some time. Almost celebrating the time she gets to herself, Handan takes a shower and washes her hair with the product to be advertised—a new brand of shampoo called Belinda. As an independent woman with a high-paying profession who does not want anything to do with traditional family life, Dilara finds the script almost distasteful. She calls up her agent Ayca to pay off the contract money and cancel the advertisement deal, but this is simply not possible because of the huge compensation amount of 750,000 liras.
Dilara’s lover and friends also do not let go of the opportunity to mock her, and the taunts of a colleague at the Harika play, Arzu, particularly anger Dilara. It is suggested that Dilara and Arzu are professional rivals, and the protagonist even suspects Arzu of having tried her luck with Serkan. Nonetheless, the day of the shoot arrives, and Dilara has a tough time on the floor. Neither is she excited with the prospect of playing a traditional caring wife nor does she enjoy the company of the other actors who play out her family members. The talented actress finds it even more difficult to perform the main scene, in which she showers with the Belinda shampoo and has to go through multiple takes of it. The director of the advertisement, Timo, happens to be a good friend of Dilara, and to help their situation, he asks the actress to mentally step into the shoes of Handan and enact the scene. Following his lead, Dilara uses all her skills to act out the satisfaction of the shower, but is rather surprised the moment she opens her eyes. Dilara now truly finds herself in the life and shoes of Handan Gulveren, as she is magically transported into the house and family of her character.
How Does Dilara Deal With The Secrets Of Handan’s Life?
After being supernaturally pushed into the life of her character Handan, Dilara’s first attempts are obviously to escape the situation and somehow return to her original life. But this is quickly revealed to be impossible, for the world around has not changed at all, but only the existence of any Dilara Basaran has simply been wiped out. Neither of her friends nor even Serkan recognizes Dilara and her boyfriend is dating Arzu in this weird alternate reality world, while Arzu also leads the Harika play in place of Dilara. The actress’ apartment is also occupied by someone else, and she has no social media presence either. In short, Dilara Basaran simply does not exist, and the woman is now stuck in the life of Handan. This is an equally difficult situation, too, since Handan is a married woman who is always surrounded by her family when at home. Her two young children, Mehmetcan and Aysegul, are always loud and chirpy, just like young kids are, and her husband, Necati, is a stereotypical man with stereotypical expectations from his wife. Their extended family also includes a disabled father-in-law, a stern and disapproving mother-in-law, and a sister-in-law who is almost the same age as Handan. Dilara even tries shampooing her hair with Belinda once again, hoping and praying that she would be magically brought back to her original self, but all this manages to do is get her taken to a psychiatric hospital.
Dilara also soon finds out about a massive secret in the life of Handan, one that is equally scandalous as well as dangerous. In her professional life, Handan is a customer representative at a bank, and the bank manager is a man named Akif, who happens to be the husband of Handan’s sister-in-law. While Dilara is stern and haughty in her frustrated interaction with Akif, she quickly finds out that Handan and Akif are actually having an affair behind their family’s backs. The two would often drive away during work hours and spend romantic time together. In fact, not only were the two in a romantic relationship, but they were also stealing money from an account at the bank as well. Akif had been stealing from the account of a company, which was possibly using the bank account as a means of laundering money, and he had gathered all the money in a leather bag. He had then handed this bag over to Handan, who had hidden it somewhere in her house, as the two were now waiting for the right opportunity to take the money and run away from their lives together.
This stolen money soon starts to create a ruckus in the life of Dilara, as Akif approaches her one night and tells her that they have to return the money. The men working at the shady company had found out about their theft and had tortured Akif to the point of taking out one of his eyes, threatening to kill him if he did not return their money. Dilara, or Handan, too, is then contacted by the company when a car intentionally crashes into hers, and a message is left on her dashboard. The message informs Dilara that she was being given one extra day before the company members would return to collect their money or else harm her too. By this time, the actress had accepted her fate and started living life as Handan, and soon, she gave herself up to the sexual approaches of her husband Necati as well. It is while being intimate with Necati that Dilara is magically pointed toward the stash of money as if she had to play this role, too, in order to proceed with her life. She then gets hold of the money from a secret chamber behind some furniture in her room and decides to hand it back to the company members when they come the next day.
How Did The Old Woman Help Dilara?
During her time at the psychiatric hospital, Dilara’s condition was diagnosed as multiple severe mental illnesses, and the woman was admitted to the facility for a few days. Although Dilara tried explaining her bizarre story, the doctors and family members were sure that Handan was losing her mind and therefore needed treatment. It is during this time while at the hospital that Dilara one day loudly wonders what more she can do to return to her original life when an old woman appears close to her and starts talking. The old woman’s claims of a metaverse and alternate reality seem at first like gibberish, as one would expect from a patient at the place. However, soon enough, it is the old woman who seems to have a clear understanding of what is happening in Dilara’s life.
Who the old woman is or how she is aware of all this are not things cleared up in “Oh Belinda,” and it is only up to the viewers to decide. The woman tells Dilara to keep playing the role that she now finds herself in. Although it is still possible to consider this as just a casual remark, Dilara, who has always been an actress, interprets this as a suggestion that pretending to accept her situation and acting as Handan is the only way forward for the actress. Therefore, Dilara immediately changes her stance and tells the doctors that she is now alright and should return to her life at the Gulveren household. She starts to perform all her duties as a wife and mother out of a genuine drive to sincerely play the part of a docile family woman. The actress now starts to see her situation as a challenging role and therefore pushes herself to blend in and play the part.
On the other side, Dilara also starts to realize that she needs to act on her behalf on the side too, and she now starts to pitch herself as an actress looking for any work. She gradually meets with Serkan, the boyfriend in her original life, and tries to prove that she knows a lot about him. When this does not work, Dilara ropes Serkan in with her beauty and charm and gets sexually involved with the man to ensure that she gets introduced to the group of actors and artists. This entire group had been Dilara’s friends in her original life, but now they do not recognize her at all. Nonetheless, the woman does get a role for herself in the Harika, and the Others play, but here too, Arzu acts like a rival to her. On the night of her performance, Arzu convinces the director to fire Dilara, and exposes her identity as a married woman named Handan.
In Dilara’s original reality, her director and friend Timo had constantly been asking her to feel one with her character during the shoot of the Belinda advertisement. It was by following his instructions that the actress had gotten into the life of her character. Similarly, on this side of reality, the old woman acts like a director to Dilara, telling her to feel one with the character she is supposed to play while also reminding her that she can get back to becoming Dilara only if she starts pursuing the life of Dilara. It is with both sides of the advice that the actress now plans her life ahead, sincerely hoping that she can return to her life as an up-and-coming star.
‘Oh Belinda’ Ending Explained: How Does Dilara Finally Return To Her Original Life?
After finding out that her role in the Harika and the Others play had been sabotaged by Arzu, Dilara loses her calm and feels lost in her plans for life as Handan. The woman had stepped out of her house, leaving a message for Necati, saying that she was going away from the family and now had nowhere else to go. Taken over by disappointment and a very internal desire to perform, Dilara dances and performs the exact scenes of the Harika play, which she remembers since she was the one playing the lead role in her actual life. But instead of doing so on a theatrical stage in front of audiences, Dilara performs by herself amidst heavy rain on the roof of a building. She throws away all the money that Akif and Handan had stolen, and this rain of banknotes creates a distraction on the streets. Dilara is then about to walk away from the building when the cars of the company members arrive on the scene. But as the strong headlights wash away the whole frame, Dilara is once again seen back in her original reality, applying shampoo to her hair during the Belinda advertisement shoot. The director, Timo, now praises her performance and calls for a pack-up as “Oh Belinda” comes to an end.
The ending of “Oh Belinda” suggests that everything that we saw with regard to the life of Handan was actually part of Dilara’s own imagination, as the skilled actress fabricated a whole reality to place herself into and play the character appropriately. In this sense, the film tries to highlight the requirements, and in a way, struggles, of professional actors to perform as characters that are very different from their usual lives. While this seems to be the most possible meaning for the ending of the film, other possibilities can be thought of as well. If we are indeed to sit and think of theories, then the possibility that Dilara actually once had a family life just like Handan also seems quite interesting. Perhaps before becoming an actress, the woman had indeed been a wife and mother, and she had left all of this behind to pursue her dreams, which is what Dilara tries to do on her final day as Handan. Maybe this was why she was so against this script right after reading it, wanting to keep old memories away that were related to the character she had to play. After all, we are never given any information or perspective into Dilara Basaran’s past, and maybe “Oh Belinda” is all about her uncontrollably remembering it all and trying to escape the reality that she had already once escaped.