WARNING: Contains Spoilers
The movie, Fetih 1453, is “insightful, epic and educational” and highly recommended by our writer.
You wouldn’t be alone if you wondered whether or not the story of a great righteous leader, under whom all people of varying religions and races lived in peace, was just fable. In fact, having seen the movie of Fetih 1453, you might even be forgiven for thinking these ‘Muslims’ must be a wholly fabricated people. Which Muslims today live together in peace, love, tolerance and, most importantly, within a society ruled by justice and equity to all?
Approaching four million views on the official trailer in just over eight weeks (compare an all time classic Toy Story 3 which hit just over seven million hits in two years) Fetih 1453 has proven to be a movie not just for the Turks. In Turkey alone I have first hand information of a flood of converts to Islam as a result of the insight into Islam that Fetih 1453 provides.
Novice acting cast aside – and be reasonable, Turkish media is still very young, although making great strides as we’ve seen from the recent Reuters comment – I thought the film, the most expensive to be made in Turkish history at a budget of USD 17m, was a beautiful recollection of the history of the conquest of Constantinople by the 21-year-old Sultan Mehmet (Turkish for ‘Muhammad’). It is a story of honesty, loyalty, faith and certainty of a righteous leader and his people.
With regards to the factual accuracy of the film, of course, it’s a film created for a mass audience and so there are many ‘Hollywood moments’ – love stories and illicit affairs. While there is no documentary evidence of this, the non-Hollywood-esque moments are, in fact, quite accurate according to my research.
The might of these opulently dressed armies, emperors and women almost makes you wish you lived in this time period. It wasn’t only the attire, either; the characters were so endearing that you wanted to be the daughter, wife or lover. For the men in this time loyalty was everything, and frivolity unimaginable. They are depicted as great lions who exuded strength and masculinity yet affectionate and chivalrous – a rare combination.
At times, I wanted to leap out of my seat and run to the battlefield. One of these moments was when Sultan Fateh Mehmet led an ocean of soldiers in prayer on the battlefield and you witnessed a sea of red bow to the ground in unity – a truly moving moment. Another of these scenes was when the great hero of the movie, Hassan, was struggling for his last breath and you felt his pain. The story of Hassan is well recorded in history and the film recollected his valiance with great accuracy.
The intensity of the battles, and the various shifts in morale and the hope, were well translated in the movie. The scenes of war were epic, powerful and slightly exhausting, particularly since I had to repeatedly shift between the English subtitles and the impressive imagery on screen, which I really didn’t want to miss for a moment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a war film with as much glamour as Fetih 1453, but then that was the Ottoman way.
Other great moments include the significant address by Sultan Mehmet Fateh to the Byzantine Emperor. He asks him to live with them in peace, offering them protection and a promise of no bloodshed, a profound moment for a number of reasons. Firstly, it expressed the divine instruction that the leader cannot take up war unless he has first tried to resolve the conflict in peace. It showed that this leader did not act upon his own desires or impulses and only acted according to holy guidance. I think it’s also an important moment in reflecting that Islam does not encourage war and sees it only as a last resort, contrary to popular belief.
One major criticism which has been raised by many, is that the movie did not explain in enough detail why the Turks felt it necessary to conquer Constantinople, other than for the purpose of expanding their territory. This is a valid argument. While the movie explained that the Sultan was insistent on achieving this with his famous statement, “I will either conquer Istanbul or Istanbul will take me”, it failed to elaborate. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh*) said that Constantinople would be conquered, and he who would conquered it would be a blessed man. The capture of Constantinople was crucial in justifying the existence of the Sultan. He believed his sole purpose was to spread the message of peace offered by his religion, and the only way to do this was to pass through Constantinople, which blocked the passage to Europe. Without Constantinople, he could not take this message to the people of Europe. Ultimately, he knew that once people understood the peace and serenity with which they would live, they would know this was ultimately best for them. The film, in failing to elaborate on this, perhaps makes the Ottoman Turks seem a little aggressive in their desire for war.
The last scene does try, rather disconnectedly, to show Sultan Mehmet Fateh as a just ruler by portraying all the Byzantine Christians and Orthodox Greeks as joyful and elated, having realised the peace with which they would be allowed to live. Although having failed to fully bring the audience to sympathise with the Sultan until now, the poor acting and final cringe-worthy moment when he holds and kisses a Christian child makes this character slightly unbelievable.
All in all, I think it was certainly worth the most expensive budget in Turkish history. Fetih 1453 tells the beautiful story of the strength of a righteous and noble leader and shows us how a great leader inspires. Great leadership is the key to every success, something we lack globally today and which has been the cause of wars and general inequity.
I would urge everyone to go and watch this. It is insightful, epic and, at moments, emotional, but truly educational.
* Muslims repeat the phrase “peace be upon him” after mentioning the Prophet Muhammad’s name. It is abbreviated to “pbuh” elsewhere in the text.
* Article updated on 14March 2012 at 2.30pm.
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