The Ottoman Lieutenant Image

Icelandic actress Helma Hilmar plays Lillie Rowe, an idealistic American nurse. Hilmar brings fresh-faced beauty and composure to the role.She is the American audience’s vicarious lens: the fearlessly plucky protagonist whose idealism compels her from her life of luxury to a brutal country where women are poorly regarded and treated even worse. She’s intent on delivering supplies to a hospital in the caucuses. Who are these suicidal people?  I’m over characters who hear warnings like “high likelihood of war, rape, and murder, still want to go?” and undeterred they set their jaw and sally forth. A sane person would be deterred. The most troubling issue is this overwrought breathless framework of a classic movie romance. It’s disrespectful to the victims of the real events.

The eponymous Ottoman officer Ismael (Huisman) is a romantic wet dream. He’s kind and funny and handsome and wears his uniform smartly.  When it comes time for the sex he carefully asks Lillie if she’s sure. She’s the one who initiates sex, in fact, asking him to tell her the Turkish word for “kiss.” Oh my. He’s far too perfect. Later in the film he’s even more perfect. I am skeptical of the notion that a man in that culture at that time could be so deferential to a young American woman. Possible. Unlikely.

The budget is splashed all over the place; the production is lush and epic. Sweeping landscapes flow by in saturated hyperreal color as Lillie travels across the desert and mountains. It’s a pretty film. I’m sympathetic to the filmmakers whose craftsmanship went into the movie. Absent historical context this would be adequate light fare presented as easily digested boilerplate archetypes and tropes but the weak script/dialog and narrative retcon can’t be ignored and spoils their efforts.  

Effective propaganda shouldn’t make one think too deeply. Riefenstahl would approve.

The Ottoman Lieutenant  (2016)  Directed by Joseph Ruben. Written by Jeff Stockwell. Starring Michiel Huisman, Hera Hilmar, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley.   

5 out of 10

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  1. Carole Amarosso says:

    And The Promise is propaganda to prove it was genocide, financed exclusively by a multi billionaire Armenian American that gladly lost 100 million dollars to convince those about what they already know I’ve watched more than a fair share of movies about genocide and just because Turkey won’t bone up to the fact won’t make it go away. It’ll take more than a hyped movie or two to convince critical thinkers to fall sway either way on issues atrocious or otherwise

  2. Joseph Joestar says:

    “opening scene of the movie ,where an Afro American is rejected to a hospital, thats you, and your article is all about, you hateful ignorant”

    Aaron, there’s one issue with the scene: If it was indeed set in Pennsylvania, this would not have likely happened. Racial discrimination against blacks was of a different character in the north versus the south, where it was institutionalized and more rigid. Northern hospitals would have accepted blacks. Most northern cities officially accepted blacks into all schools (Cleveland might have been an exception). Blacks weren’t allowed into some social clubs, got more police attention, and were seen as lower than whites, but not to the degree they would have been kept out of a hospital.

    Southern hospitals indeed discriminated by race in that way, but Lillie would have known that upon arrival had she agreed to work in the South (Also I imagine she, as an educated woman, would have known this and refused to come to the South).

  3. Gengo says:

    Very good movie and good to get the more accurate version of events instead of them demonising the Turks , the Turks were known for their good manner even during the Gallipoli campaign sharing their food and tobacco with the enemy. In those times if you lived under the Ottoman Empire and were part of the regime trying to destabilise then you get what you deserve ! It’s called treason in the west and in every western nation you would be killed for it. It’s a well known fact the Armenians did actually have groups dedicated to killing and invading small Turkish rural villages so yes everything seems pretty spot on in this film thanks

  4. Sule Senol says:

    The movie evokes reality and I was satisfied with the story. Thanks Ruben.

  5. Aaron says:

    who do you think financing your article? Have you ever talked to 100 year old Armenian who lived in east of Turkey all his life and proudly shared what the life was all about in those times, how things were so beautiful, and peaceful..till the west took it all, like they doing the same…opening scene of the movie ,where an Afro American is rejected to a hospital, thats you, and your article is all about, you hateful ignorant

    you proudly call ‘ genocide’, leave you to your ignorance

  6. Mary M. Mansour says:

    Fell in love with Michiel Huisman as Ismail. He is one gorgeous wet dream for sure.

  7. Steven says:

    Best movie ever!

  8. Zareh Sahakian says:

    Denial comes in many forms. Decades ago it was crude dismissal of the Armenian genocide by Turks that was essentially based on the notion of : “Armenians? what Armenians there were no Armenians only Turks lived in Turkey” in the same manner as Kurds were in reality “Mountain Turks”. Also, Armenian Christian churches and cathedrals were built by “Christian ancestors of Turks”.

    Later, realizing the untenability of simplistic official lies Turkish authorities adopted a more subtle, more sophisticated approach. The new line was “bad things happen in wars, both sides suffered equally”. It is this latest approach that permits the president of Turkey to even offer his “condolences” for all those who died…you know, during the “civil war”.

    Today, we witness yet another, prettier approach of denial through “The Ottoman Lieutenant”, a film financed and produced by government-connected Turkish sources who, we find out from the directing/editing team, even had a major say in the final editing, to the dismay of the director Joseph Ruben.

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