Harem Suare (1999)

Director: Ferzan Ozpetek

Starring: Marie Gillain, Alex Descas, Lucia Bose, Valeria Golino, Malick Bowens, Christophe Aquillon, Serra Yilmaz, Haluk Bilginer, Pelin Batu, Ayla Algan, Nilufer Acikalin, Ali Basar, Meric Benlioglu, Cansel Elcin, Basak Koklukaya

—An ornately styled tale that cries out for lucid simplicity, “Harem Suare” tells of an odalisque and a eunuch, drawn together by love and the desire for power in a Turkish harem in the early 1900s. Adopting an intricate approach to historical melodrama not unlike that of Zhang Yimou’s early films – “Raise the Red Lantern” in particular – the opulent production is undone by its convoluted narrative. Lacking the concrete exposition and character grounding to pull audiences into its exotic world, this more ambitious film looks unlikely to match the commercial impact of director Ferzan Ozpetek’s widely traveled debut, “Hamam – The Turkish Bath.”
—As the Ottoman Empire comes to an end, an old servant spins a tale to keep the women in the Sultan’s harem distracted. The story is about Safiye, who first becomes the Sultan’s favorite concubine, and later the official wife. As she gains power and influence, she engages in a tryst with Nadir, the black eunuch. When the Empire falls, the Sultan escapes to Europe, leaving all the concubines behind. Safiye fights for their rights under the new order…