by Rachel Willis
The installation of a state-sponsored satellite dish on the roof of an apartment building is the inciting event for ominous, Orwellian horror in writer/director Orçun Behram’s first feature, The Antenna.
A commentary on the political situation in modern day Turkey, Behram’s debut film is focused on oppression. Though oppression takes many forms (the oppression of youth, the patriarchy, the status quo), the movie is most interested in the state’s suppression of speech and expression.
From the moment the satellite is fitted onto the roof of the building, sinister events occur. A black ooze, which emanates from the antenna, leaks through the walls, something Mehmet (Ihsan Önal), the building’s evening landlord, discovers when he’s called to a tenant’s bathroom to address the seeping goo.
The ooze creeps through the building, infiltrating more and more apartments as the night progresses toward the launch of the new state-run programming.
The kick-off event for the state’s broadcasting system is the “Midnight Broadcast.” Building superintendent, Mr. Cihan, has been advertising it to all the residents to ensure maximum audience participation. The Leader (who bears a certain resemblance to Recep Erdoğan) hosts the broadcast, and while the Leader’s delivery seems benevolent, the underlying message is a sinister reminder that dissent will not be tolerated.
Helping to tie the film’s many many pieces together is Mehmet. As odd and menacing events happen in the hours leading up to the Midnight Broadcast, he becomes increasingly invested in the fates of the residents in his building. Mehmet experiences a few disturbing visual and auditory assaults, all of which propel him to action.
The black ooze is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the insidious nature of state propaganda. But when you want to deliver a warning to your audience, knocking them over the head with the message is sometimes worth doing.
There is a lot working for Behram’s film. As we watch the events unfold, dialogue between characters is replaced by broadcasts from a threatening voice that emanates from every radio and TV. The tense score puts you on edge, and the climax is almost unbearably stressful as the auditory assaults reach their peak.
This is a reminder of what’s at stake when you take your freedom for granted in a world that seeks to rob you of it at every turn.