Currently showing, the film Çanakkale 1915 plunges the viewer into the heart of the First World War. It is dedicated to the memory of the Ottoman fighters of the Great War who fought in the Battle of the Dardanelles against an allied expeditionary force made up of the British, French and ANZAC (the Australian and New Zealand Expeditionary Forces).
Balkan War, 1912: after the great Ottoman defeat, Turkish youth enlisted in the army to take part in the First World War. Canakkale 1915 traces the story of Veli and Mehmet Ali, two young people assigned to the 19th Division, the very one which fought against the British troops one of the greatest struggles in history.
There is no doubt that the director and his crew have done a tremendous amount of historical work to document the scenes, the costumes and the characters as well as possible. The facts and the chronology are true to the facts and thus offer the viewer a little-known vision of one of the greatest battles of the First World War (which in total claimed approximately 400,000 victims).
Fans of uniforms and weapons will be delighted, as this film shows in detail the Ottoman army uniforms of the time. The film is unique in that it stages and emphasizes the role of Mustapha Kemal, the future Atatürk, who commanded several Ottoman regiments in this battle. The character traits are also respected, we recognize an implacable and astute Mustapha Kemal, the actor who embodies him has the same piercing gaze. However, the British phlegm is perhaps a little overplayed ...
However, the film suffers from many flaws and is lacking in originality. It is 2012 and the director uses the worst Hollywood procedures of the sixties. Since when does a battery of four small 75mm guns manage to destroy the biggest Dreadnoughts (battleships used during the Great War)? Since when does a soldier, alone, armed with his will and driven by love for his country, manage to carry a shell weighing more than 200 kilograms to supply a howitzer whose supply rails have been destroyed?
The film shows almost no scene of the battles as they might have taken place at the site of the Allied landing. The only scenes filmed show skirmishes, isolated Ottoman units containing Allied soldiers. The only scenes intended to represent the great Ottoman offensives are only a succession of synthetic aerial images intended to suggest the number and the violence of what follows. The director excels in this, because the viewer has to imagine the intensity of the fighting. The film is moreover a succession of more or less long scenes which always suggest without necessarily showing. The acting and the soundtrack are therefore decisive in conveying feelings to the viewer.
In view of the real losses and the sufferings endured by the combatants who experienced hunger, thirst, insects or tropical diseases, we can say that Çanakkale 1915 hides a large part of the truth since it hardly ever mentions the suffering. "Annexes". In addition, we hardly ever see Allied soldiers! As if the Ottomans are shooting blindly.
A propaganda film
The assaults filmed in slow motion; zooms in on serious and dirty faces; the heroising of the soldiers to the limit (scene of the canon cited above, among others); the concealment of enemies and, above all, the - epic - music are the ingredients of this war film. Looking back, it's clear that the director wanted to idealize the Ottomans in this feature film. As proof, the first scene which shows ghosts - exhausted and in rags - from the Balkan war of 1912 then the second scene showing the mobilization of 1914 and the young people who enlist en masse, even in the most remote villages of 'Anatolia.
As it is written in the final credits, the film is dedicated to the thousands of soldiers who fell for their homeland. It is a very noble goal to want to pay homage to the victims of the Great War, but in this film the director instrumentalizes History. It’s a shame, because the Dardanelles episode is largely unknown to a general public accustomed to films featuring the Western Front and the muddy trenches of France….
We do not recommend this film, far from it. It is even very interesting to discover a little-known episode of the Great War. Be careful, however, of the director's bias.
- Edward J. Erickson, Ordered To Die, A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War, Greenwood Press, 2001.
- Pierre Miquel, Les Poilus d'Orient, Fayard, 1998.
The movie trailer