‘The Club’, is a Turkish period drama, directed by Seren Yüce and Zeynep Günay Tan. Set in the 1950s with a club at the center, the series is a tale of a mother who reunites with her daughter after being released from prison. The reunion was not an easy one, considering how the daughter had spent years at the orphanage not knowing her mother’s identity. The political and social climate plays a crucial role in this series, where the atrocities faced by the Turkish non-Muslim citizens (Varlık Vergisi/ wealth tax) along with the gradual intolerance towards the Greeks are represented.
‘The Club’ Part 1: Synopsis
Matilda, an ex-convict, is released on a general pardon and decides to go to Israel. Things take a turn when her confidant Mr. Davit asks Matilda to meet her daughter, who then lived at an orphanage. While Matilda initially aimed at reaching Israel, leaving her tragic life in Turkey, the news of her daughter’s arrest changed her heart. Raşel, Matilda’s daughter, was a short-tempered young woman who broke into a club to fetch her friend’s proof of identity that was kept away by her employer. After taking a look at Raşel, Matilda decided to help her get released from prison. While the release seemed simple at first with the accuser taking compensation and letting the young girl go; Çelebi, the employer, rejected the compensation after taking a look at Matilda. Çelebi’s relation with Matilda is gradually explained through the series.
While Matilda was unaware of Çelebi’s existence, there seemed to be a past that resulted in his change of heart. Desperate to help Raşel, Matilda reaches Çelebi’s office to pay for her release. He forces Matilda to sign a blank check; the amount was to be decided later until then, Matilda had to work for him. The money for her daughter’s release and the cost of her stay was to be deducted from her wage. Matilda started working at the laundry department at the prestigious club to keep her daughter afloat. The story connects the past with the present. Matilda’s life story plays an essential role in understanding her decision to murder someone. It also hints towards the general intolerance faced by the minority Non-Muslims, particularly Jews.
The series discloses how even in the 50s, the situation was unfavorable for the Jews, with many choosing to leave Turkey and settle in Israel. The mother’s growing concern for her daughter and the daughter’s steady attachment towards her mother takes the audience on an emotional journey.
Matilda: Whom Did She Murder? And, What Was Her Intent?
The Club Part 1 explores the life of Matilda and her journey after prison release. Determined to keep herself safe and away from Turkey, the land that took away her family, Matilda knew she had to leave for Israel. She decided to not meet or learn about her daughter as that would make it all the more difficult for her to go. But as it seems, life had other intentions.
After taking a look at her daughter from a distance and realizing the mess she was in, Matilda decided to be the mother she had failed to be for the past years. Raşel refused to accept Matilda as her mother owing to the years she was left at the orphanage. Matilda was just another stranger for Raşel, and she hated her guts for returning to help after she was old enough to figure out her life herself. She understood the reason for her daughter’s rejection and was persistent, hoping to find a way to be a part of Raşel’s life. Matilda left the apartment key with her daughter asking her to stay there whenever she felt like it. As the mother tried to win Raşel’s confidence, Çelebi tried to escalate Raşel’s hate for her mother, by calling Matilda a murderer, something that Raşel was unaware of.
As her daughter referred to her as a murderer, Matilda decided to explain her past decision. She took Raşel to her old house. A magnificent house with elaborate doors and windows, Matilda called it her home before her arrest for murder. Because of Varlık Vergisi, the wealth tax, her father and brother were taken away even though they had their papers and cleared their dues. They were taken away to work and pay their debt, and they were never returned. As the family lost their wealth and status, young Matilda had discovered that her lover was involved in helping the Government frame the case against her family. After learning the truth, Matilda executed her lover for betraying her trust.
In her past years, Matilda believed that even though society would not accept a relationship between a Jew and a Muslim, her father would. Her father loved and trusted her lover, Mumtaz, but after realizing how her family was played, she took it upon herself to punish him. It was not an easy choice for Matilda, knowing that she was pregnant with the child of a man who ruined her family. She killed not only to avenge her family but also herself.
While Matilda narrated the whole incident to her daughter, she left out a piece of important information. She did not reveal the man’s identity whom she harmed, and she simply said that the man broke her family’s trust. This information will remain a critical element in The Club Part 1; the relationship between Matilda and Raşel can be damaged if the identity is revealed.
Who Was Selim Songür? – The Club Istanbul And Selim
While the crux of the tale is a story of an absent mother and her daughter, The Club Part 1 expands the narrative, with the characters working at the nightclub.
Selim Songür, was the lead performer at the club. He was a visionary whose concepts were not accepted by most clubs. Determined to make his dreams come true, Selim entered ‘The Club Istanbul’ and exchanged his ideas with Orhan Şahin, the owner of the place. Orhan was a dreamer like Selim, and he was excited about the concepts shared by Selim. Orhan wanted to break away from the regular stage performances at every other nightclub and wanted to create something unique to attract the crowd. Selim did just that. He offered a mix of the traditional and the modern.
Matilda and Selim shared an adorable friendship. He trusted her blindly at the club. Matilda was the one who helped Selim escape when he was anxious to go on stage for his first performance. Later, after gaining confidence and sharing his fear with Orhan, Selim decided to perform again. Matilda came to Selim’s rescue a final time when the news of his father’s demise shattered his spirit. It was she who motivated Selim and helped him perform for the radio. The radio performance was particularly significant as Selim’s parents had always told him that if he was a true artist, he would be performing for the radio. Even though he achieved enough success to prove his worth yet his parents were not there to witness his greatness as an artist.
Who Was Çelebi? How Did He Know Matilda?
Throughout the series, the intent of Çelebi was questionable. Though superficially it seemed that he was interested in ruining Matilda’s life, deep within, there was a feeling of anger that stemmed from affection. Matilda found an old picture of her family in Çelebi’s drawer. She was keen to learn more about his identity. She believed he was Mumtaz, her lover’s sympathizer, and hoped to know more. Matilda learned from her father’s ex-employee that Çelebi used to work for her father but was removed after he was accused of theft.
Meanwhile, Çelebi recalls a memory of the time he wrote a letter to Matilda warning her of Mumtaz. Sadly, the letter did not make its way to Matilda. Somehow, the pain inflicted by him on Matilda, at a time when she had nothing, was pleasurable. It might be revenge for the pain she had caused him; somehow, the intent remains blurry.
Ismet, Raşel And Mordo
Raşel, the free-spirited daughter of Matilda, was in love with Ismet, a taxi driver. Raşel was trusted by her friend to hand a letter to Ismet, the man she was attracted to. Instead of the task, she was trusted to perform, Raşel caught herself getting romantically attracted to Ismet. Their love was intense, though Ismet knew Raşel by a Muslim name. It is only after sharing an intimate moment that Raşel revealed her identity. Raşel was warned by Matilda that a Muslim man would never accept a Jewish woman. Matilda tried to discuss the consequences with her daughter, but Raşel was in love. Ismet slapped Raşel after learning her Jewish name and left her.
Meanwhile, Raşel realized that only her friend Mordo truly cared for her, and she decided to marry him after she was hurt by Ismet. Things got complicated when she learned about her pregnancy. Ismet, too acknowledged his feelings for Raşel though their rekindled love was short-lived. Raşel knew that Ismet would never be the right choice and left for Israel with Mordo. Raşel knew that their inter-religious relationship would not be accepted by society, leading to further pain and loss.
‘The Club’ Part 1: Ending Explained: What Can We Expect In Season 1 Part 2?
In the end, Çelebi was asked to leave the backstage responsibilities on Matilda by Orhan. This decision was taken after Çelebi had an argument with Selim. In the process, he decided to damage Selim’s confidence by informing him about his father’s death right before his performance. Orhan could not trust Çelebi with Selim any longer and decided Matilda was a better fit for the job. Çelebi left with anger and was determined to reveal the truth about Raşel’s father to her. Even though he knocked on the door, he decided to remain silent. He later reached the terrace of the building where he secretly kept the pigeon cage that was marked M+M (Mumtaz+ Matilda). He opened the door of the cage and let the birds fly. This, in a way, indicates his forgiveness for Matilda.
In the final scene, Raşel leaves for Israel with Mordo. He was aware of her pregnancy and decided to support her, nonetheless. The Club Part 1 ends with Raşel leaving but her sad eyes staring afar. Will Raşel truly leave her love to lead a peaceful life? That remains a question.
Orhan’s hidden Greek identity can lead to a traumatizing outcome. His false identity as a Turkish Muslim had led to pressure from the higher authorities to lay off Non-Muslim employees. The Part 2 trailer indicates Raşel’s return for her love. A pregnant Raşel seeks help from Matilda. Meanwhile, Çelebi might reveal his true intent to Matilda. The Istanbul Pogrom of September 1955 that led to large-scale Greek emigration from Turkey along with physical assault of not just the Greeks but also Jews and Armenians, might be depicted in Part 2 of the series to be released on the 6th of January, 2022.
The Club is a 2021 Turkish Drama Television Series created by Zeynep Gunay Tan. It is streaming on Netflix.