Ashes sweeps viewers into a dark tale of passion and intrigue. This 2024 Turkish romantic thriller directed by Erdem Tepegöz follows Gökçe, a wealthy publisher played compellingly by Funda Eryigit. Though seemingly living an enviable life with her businessman husband Kenan (Mehmet Günsür), Gökçe feels an emptiness she tries filling through a dangerous obsession with a mysterious manuscript. This unpublished novel tells the story of an intoxicating affair between a married woman and an alluring carpenter named “M.”
When Gökçe discovers the bakery from the novel is real, she becomes determined to find this stranger who resembles “M.” This leads her to alluring carpenter Metin (Alperen Duymaz) who matches the book’s descriptions perfectly. Swept up in fantasy fulfilment, Gökçe recklessly pursues Metin, bringing the novel’s torrid relationship to life. But what starts as an exhilarating escape from the tedium of Gökçe’s routine soon spirals into a dark tale of burning secrets. Ashes keeps viewers guessing about what’s real and imagined in this steamy yet suspenseful film that intertwines passion and peril.
A Tale of Two Cities: Dazzling Cinematography Meets Distracting Effects
Ashes captivates with stunning cinematography that spotlights the beauty of Istanbul. Cinematic shots sweep through the city’s modern neighborhoods and Gökçe’s sleek, lavish home contrasted by earthy scenes in the ancient city’s hills and aging buildings. The camera work fully utilizes this tale of two cities to underscore differences between Gökçe’s sterile corporate life and the fantasy world that consumes her.
When depicting Gökçe’s growing obsession with the novel, the film features dream-like sequences washing in golden light. Floating ashes and rippling water effects attempt to realize the surreal fable leaping off the manuscript’s pages. However, some computer-generated effects miss the mark. Noticeably fake ashes and embers proving more distracting than mystical in key moments. Still, on the whole, visually transporting cinematography immerses viewers in the passions and intrigue ensnaring Gökçe.
The film’s vivid aesthetics highlight why Gökçe finds herself so drawn to the timeworn cobblestone streets and ancient towers depicted in the novel. The plot sharpens as she leaves behind an existence framed by cold steel and cascading waterfalls for one with warm hearths and hands that craft wood. Though occasionally betrayed by subpar effects, Ashes largely succeeds as a visual feast, contrasting two compelling versions of Istanbul that shape Gökçe’s desires and undoing.
Complex Characters Caught in a Dangerous Affair
Funda Eryigit delivers a compelling performance as Gökçe, a woman unsatisfied in her picture-perfect life. Eryigit expresses her character’s complexities with nuance, portraying Gökçe as both sympathetic and selfish as she pursues the exhilaration of an affair. We understand what drives her into another man’s arms, even as we question her neglect of her family.
As alluring carpenter Metin, Alperen Duymaz makes an impression with his brooding charisma. Yet the character lacks dimension, coming across more as a fantasy fixation than a real romantic interest. Duymaz struggles to develop authentic chemistry with Eryigit, as the script prioritizes steamy scenes over meaningful emotional connections between the pair.
Mehmet Günsür is convincing as Gökçe’s spurned husband Kenan. He fits the role of the neglectful spouse who inspiring his wife’s wandering eye, while injecting needed shades of gray through moments of attempted understanding. Still, Kenan leans too heavily into the villainous betrayed husband archetype to come across as a fully realized character.
While Eryigit’s performance as Gökçe compels, she cannot single-handedly carry an affair bereft of actual affection. Both Duymaz and Günsür fail to match her emotional depth, hamstrung by roles better suited for propelling the plot than showcasing acting talents. Yet Ashes stands as a showcase for Eryigit’s abilities. Even if other characters pale beside her, she commands attention in every scene as a woman chasing a dangerous dream.
An Affair Built on Fantasy Rather than Chemistry
Ashes lures viewers in with an intriguing concept – a married woman so obsessed with a manuscript she brings its story to life. Early on, director Erdem Tepegöz cultivates suspense around how fiction shapes Gökçe’s fiery affair with the real-life Metin. Yet despite paralleling the novel, their union wilts from a lack of chemistry.
While Gökçe fixates on Metin for matching the book’s hero, we never witness essential foundations of an organic relationship. Their tepid emotional bond fails to sell this as a romance that could upend her family. Rather than spontaneous combustion, their scenes flicker weakly, relying on the taboo of infidelity over honest affection.
As Gökçe’s marriage deteriorates, her husband Kenan becomes more sympathetic in highlighting her failures as a mother. Yet side plots tackling family strife feel undercooked. Instead the film fixates on the couple’s passionless trysts then pivots wildly into thriller territory in closing acts. Surprise twists land with varying effectiveness, but few feel earned after superficial character development.
Tepegöz bites off more than he can chew, introducing provocative themes on marital disenchantment, forbidden temptation, and feminine sexual liberation. But the story struggles to unite its disparate parts into a satisfying whole. Gökçe’s inner turmoil means little devoid of nuanced relationship dynamics or high stakes in her secret life with Metin. In the end, Ashes ignites only intermittent sparks, its most alluring qualities puffing away like smoke from a flame that never fully caught.
Clunky Dialogue and Obtrusive Score Undermine Key Moments
Though Ashes visuals impress, lackluster writing frequently disrupts the film’s spellbinding veneer. Stilted dialogue particularly diminishes emotional moments between Gökçe and Metin. During would-be romantic interludes, the script saddles both Eryigit and Duymaz with cheesy, superficial lines better suited for a corny soap opera.
Rather than organic intimacy, much of their passionate exchanges come across as awkward overtures. Their first embrace even turns cringeworthy when Gökçe bizarrely monologues as if narrating from the novel itself. Such clunky diction fails to complement gorgeous backdrops with equally poetic words.
The repetitive musical score also tries too adamantly to manipulate the audience into swooning. Its incessant cue to “feel mystical” grows so distracting it undercuts several dramatic turns instead of enhancing them.
Between groan-inducing dialogue and a too-deliberate soundtrack, Ashes places style over substance in several crucial moments. If only the script and composition allowed Eryigit and Duymaz’s natural chemistry to shape this doomed romance, audiences may have found themselves seduced rather than alienated. Lacking nuance in writing and music, the film’s emotional core ends up ringing hollow.
A Visually Stunning But Uneven Psychological Affair
For fans of brooding tales of passion, Ashes makes for a moody, if imperfect, viewing experience. Undeniably the film succeeds as a visual achievement, with Istanbul coming alive through stunning cinematography. Clever twists ensure an absorbing climax even if the final act feels rushed. Leads Eryigit and Duymaz also showcase talent, even if let down by stilted dialogue.
Yet pacing issues cause the atmospherics to override depth throughout. Lack of chemistry between the leads coupled with underdeveloped side plots lessen the intended emotional impacts. Ashes reaches for bold provocative themes tied to female desire and the permeable borders between fantasy and reality. But it never fully integrates its disparate elements into a completely satisfying whole.
Viewers compelled by psychological romantic thrillers may still find themselves enthralled by Ashes’ dangerous dreamscape and shocking finale. But the film’s unfulfilled potential leaves a bitter aftertaste once the visual spectacle fades. Still, for fans of the genre, it may warrant a watch to admire the visual craftsmanship and compelling performance by Eryigit. Just don’t expect the sly eroticism and nuance of classics like Basic Instinct or Closer. Instead brace for flashes of intrigue wrapped in genuinely beautiful if superficial packaging.
Ashes shows sparks of brilliance through transportive cinematography and a compelling lead performance, but lackluster chemistry and a messy script prevent its provocative premise from catching fire. It ultimately disappoints more than delights.
- Gorgeous cinematography spotlights beauty of Istanbul
- Funda Eryigit delivers strong lead performance
- Intriguing premise around dangerous literary obsession
- Suspenseful atmosphere during first and final acts
- Ambitious themes explored on self-discovery and forbidden desires
- Lack of chemistry between leads
- Underdeveloped characters and side plots
- Uneven pacing and messy narrative
- Clunky dialogue
- Obtrusive musical score