Historical Epic as a Genre in Popular Turkish Cinema

Historical Epic as a Genre in Popular Turkish Cinema

Ala Sivas Gulcur (Istanbul Commerce University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6190-5.ch015
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Abstract

Cinema, born as a part of entertainment industry, became an independent industry in the first half of 20th century. The film genre, which had a notable role in the industrialization of cinema, is not only a cinematic fact but also a social case including several economic, cultural, and ideological tools. The historical epic, which is one of the major film genres, emerged with the medium itself. Despite its Italian origins, the historical epic has remained largely American because of Hollywood's financial and technological possibilities. As the spectacular nature of this genre has been more visible than historical realities, these films have become notable parts of the entertainment industry. This chapter examines the historical epic as a film genre in popular Turkish cinema and its place in Turkey's entertainment culture and industry, particularly observing its prototype, The Conquest of Constantinople (1951), then evaluating its advanced example, Conquest 1453 (2012).
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Background

The applicability of the term “genre” to entertainment in general and to cinema in particular, firstly requires some definitions: The word “genre” is originally French and means “kind” or “type”. When we talk about film genres, we are simply indicating certain types of movies. The science-fiction, the action picture, the comedy, the romance, the musical, the western are some genres of fictional storytelling cinema. However, it is quiet difficult to classify film genres with a scientific precision. (Bordwell and Thompson, 2008, p. 318) At this point the important fact is to remember about the limits of genres’ classification. So while a film may typify a particular genre, it may contain elements of others as well. (Dick, 2005, p.184) Meanwhile, another difficulty comes in defining what a genre is. Barry Keith Grant (2003, p. xv) makes a definition of genre movies, as commercial feature films which, through repetition and variation, tell familiar stories with familiar characters in familiar situations. He also mentions about their role in establishing the popular sense of cinema as a cultural and economic institution, particularly in Hollywood1 where a huge industry based on mass production has evolved.

Although the film genre had a notable role for the industrialization of cinema, it cannot be confined in this way. Therefore film genre is not only a cinematic fact but also a social case in which several economic, cultural and ideological relations may be observed (Akbulut, 2010, p.324). In this regard, Christine Gledhill (2011, p. 223) in her essay “Rethinking Genre”, puts the concept in a wide cultural perspective and suggests rethinking genre in its triple existence as industrial mechanism, aesthetic practice and arena of cultural-critical discursivity.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Popular Turkish Cinema: A term used to define commercially-oriented narrative films produced in Turkish Cinema.

Peplum Film: A term derived from the Greek “peplos” and used to describe Italian epic films of silent era, set in ancient Roman or Biblical times.

Road Show: A distribution-exhibition practice which was popular in the 1950s and 1960s for big releases, such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) AU78: The in-text citation "River Kwai (1957)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , Lawrence of Arabia (1962) AU79: The in-text citation "Arabia (1962)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , Cleopatra (1963) AU80: The in-text citation "Cleopatra (1963)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. . In this case, blockbusters were first released to selected theatres for separate performances with higher ticket prices and reserved seats.

Historical Epic Film: A film genre born in Italian cinema during the silent era and then became largely part of Hollywood. Historical epics are usually set in ancient times and they are large-scale films which use high technology, high production values and emphasize visual spectacle, especially based on large-scale battle scenes and action set-pieces.

Entertainment Industry: A subject including all kind of business which provides entertainment.

Film Industry: A subject that includes all technological and commercial institutions about filmmaking.

Film Genre: A term which serves to organize films according to their types with certain elements in common such as subject matter, theme, narrative and stylistic conventions, characters, plots and iconography.

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