As the end credits roll out, it’s a huge relief to see the ‘No animals harmed’ disclaimer. Although this is a boy-and-his-dog story, very few moments can be described as mawkish or cute.
But Aslan (a gritty Dogan Izci) is not very far from cute, especially when he’s trying to catch the attention of Ayse (Ezgi Ergin), the girl he has a crush on, from school.
And when he’s making up with his friend Hasan after a verbal tiff, or when he’s trying to get things out of his brother Sahin (Ozan Celik), at first meekly, and then hollering at him when he feels humoured by his older brother.
Aslan is a volatile child; he can sit beside a wounded dog that he wants to take home all night long if that’s what it takes, and also easily get agitated and start being abusive!
Foul-mouthed, all of maybe 11, Aslan is implicitly stubborn as well, like when he tries to docilely talk his teacher into making him the Prince in the play ‘Snow White and the Seven dwarfs, half hiding behind the wall, his eyes doing more talking than him. And in a particularly remarkable scene, where his temperament is diametrically opposed when he strips naked on his rooftop swearing and cursing, just to satiate his whim. Although this caused a laugh riot, it does tends towards a deficit in parental attention.
However, Aslan makes for quite a charismatic presence in the film, and if you thought that the central character was to be the eponymous Kangal sheepdog ‘Sivas’ you’re buzzed out, for it’s all about Aslan!
Debut director Kaan Mujdeci has set up a beautiful Turkish landscape and embedded a cultural paradigm of what can only be termed as a brutal game of dogfight. Aslan takes home ‘Sivas’, a gorgeous Kangal sheepdog named after the place Sivas, defeated in a fight. While he is awed by his classmates for the dog, he faces a predicament of a larger dimension.
The film shows how a boy, who is unsure of how to treat what, (like the alarming scene, where Aslan fears he killed the horse), gets embroiled in an adult game of power and reflected masculinity. It depicts how purpose and reasons change when certain events gathers up a larger commercial viability. Aslan’s dilemma finds no answer more or less when the movie ends.
The director has maintained a straight face when it comes to the blood sport involving two animals, and examines it clinically, letting it represent ways in the commercialised world.
The camera laps up the beauty of the Turkish landscape in the first half, and shifts focus to the story in its second half. A film that could be watched, but not without feeling bad for the dogs, about whom the story conveniently takes a neutral stand.