Hamam – The Turkish Bath

Director: Ferzan Ozpetek

The ‘haman’ or Turkish bath of the title is a crumbling structure in Istanbul that Italian architect Francesco (Alesandro Gassman) inherits from a deceased aunt. He travels from Rome with the idea of selling it, but is soon caught up in the life of the city – and in a relationship with the son of the Turkish family in whose world he finds a relaxation missing from his exisence in Rome, where his marriage is in trouble. Francesco decides to stay on and restore the ‘hamam’ in defiance of developers who want to buy up the area. Meanwhile, his wife makes a surprise visit in the hope of saving their relationship.
Old Istanbul of winding alleyways and back streets, with its vibrant lifestyle of cafes and crowded restaurants, comes to life in Ferzan Ozpetek’s impressive first feature. The writer-director, raised in Istanbul but now based in Rome, goes a step further by blending the two cultures as though spiritual enrichment comes from where you most feel at home. And the traditional ‘hamam’, the place where people gather to resolve their personal relationships and problems, provides an appropriate setting in the search to discover the self.
Ozpetek’s relaxed and beguiling film combines travel-brochure exotica and forbidden romance in an atmospheric piece of storytelling that boasts fine performances from its Italian and Turkish cast. It’s a work of intoxicating sensory finesse, and it captures the dreamy experience of the Turkish bath with a trance-like eroticism.

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