For centuries, Istanbul has been a magnet for dreamers. The seat of empire and the crossroads of continents and civilizations, it invites the imagination to run wild. But with a population in excess of twelve million, many of them unofficial immigrants or new arrivals from the country’s rural areas, the city’s air is perhaps a little too thick with aspiration nowadays. Disappointment is rife and exacerbated by increasing unemployment and worsening housing shortages.
Emre Sahin’s debut feature opens amid Istanbul’s maze of streets and proceeds to follow three individuals. Metin (Ali Atay) is a cabbie and petty thief who fled violence in his Anatolian village in the hopes of something better. He comes into chaotic interaction with Sevda (Deniz Çakir) – a nurse, long-suffering wife and a believer in numerology – and with Godwill (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), a Nigerian who risks everything to sneak to Europe on a container ship so he can rejoin the love of his life. Godwill’s hopes are smashed when he emerges from his claustrophobic quarters to discover he is in Turkey and not France.
40 is a film about hope and chaos, how the dumb luck that may seem like a godsend can change course as swiftly as it appeared. But it is also a stark, documentary-infused portrait of a city both enlivened and stressed by mass immigration and still shaping a twenty-first-century identity. The film is further able to capture a totally universal feeling of urban dislocation; ironically, it is the world’s booming metropolises that can instigate the most acute manifestations of loneliness. Sahin follows his three protagonists with pathos and sensitivity and reveals a city charmed by history and splendour, but as yet unable to fulfill all its denizens’ dreams. –TIFF