hüzün – a portrait of istanbul

Hüzün is the Turkish word for melancholy. In his book Istanbul, Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk notes that “The hüzün of Istanbul is not just the mood evoked by its music and its poetry, it is a way of looking at life that implicates us all, not only a spiritual state but a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating.” Western romantics tend to think of melancholy as the affliction of the individual, whereas Pamuk reveals — and revels in — the collective sense of bitter-sweetness which has soaked into the concrete bones of this great city, whose glory days seem to lie far behind it. As a living palimpsest of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Republican layers, the inhabitants of Istanbul go about their business as they always have, however the sense of hüzün is palpable, even to the most fleeting of visitors. From the fish markets to the steam baths to the mosques and restaurants, the people flock to the water to replenish their lives, even if the meaning of such is elusive or a burden to them. This film, shot around the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn in the autumn of 2008, is the first of a trilogy to explore the human and environmental textures of Turkey; itself part of an ongoing project to document the “temporal vertigo” of the great cities of the world. The sound scape is a melding of an original piece of music called “Daniel Tammet” by TheAndGroup (www.theandgroup.org) and the evocative street noises of Istanbul. Howard Huang, of TheAndGroup, is an electro-acoustical musician and composer based in New York City, who has worked on several independent films, especially concerning architecture.

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