So after a week’s break, my ‘Turkish trials’ restart and this time I turn to Google before committing myself to a movie from an industry that is still largely alien to me. A quick search on IMDB lands me on the page featuring “7 Kogustaki Mucize” (Miracle in Cell No. 7), a 2019 film that’s been given 8.3/10 ranking by more than 23,000 users—enough reason to spend 2hrs 12mins on a movie which requires subtitles.
“Miracle in Cell No. 7” is a remake of the highly acclaimed Korean movie with the same name released in 2013, with not much change in storyline besides the setting and a few minor adaptations. With the original film loosely based on a true incident, Miracle is one of those movies that continue to pull your heartstrings long after you have watched it.
Memo (Aras Bulut Iynemli), a shepherd in rural Turkey, suffers from an unnamed cognitive disorder and is said to be the same mental age as his daughter—Ova (Nisa Sofiya Aksongur)—who’s six. His family consists of Ova and grandmother Fatma (Celile Toyon Uysal), with whom he has a happy life in a village where people love and support them.
But tragedy befalls the little family when one day fate plays a trick on the mentally challenged Memo. He finds himself charged with the murder of a little girl Seda, his daughter’s classmate. Seda’s father is a high-ranking military official who uses his powers to get Memo arrested, tried and then sentenced to death, without giving him the opportunity to explain his story.
Falsely accused but unable to prove his innocence due to strong circumstantial evidence, Memo is jailed, and locked in cell number 7. There, he is treated with utmost brutality by jail authorities as well as his cellmates. Memo feels helpless. But then his cellmates and jailors quickly recognize his mental condition and start sympathizing with him. The rest of the story is about Memo wins their hearts with his childlike innocence, resulting in a real miracle in the climax.
Categorized as a ‘comedy-drama,’ Miracle is in a whole different league among whatever little Turkish movies I have watched. The execution of all aspects of filmmaking is nearly flawless, which changes my perception of the industry. While most Turkish movies I’ve watched have been frivolous ‘pass-times’, Miracle is a hard-hitting film made with all earnestness and deserving of every bit of attention it is getting.
Miracle is one of those films where everything goes right. With a storyline that is already strong, the screenplay adaptation gives a sense of authenticity. It becomes a Turkish movie, based on real incident.
Even with English subtitles, the original punch of the dialogues can still be felt. The writers have incorporated religion and philosophy into the script and presented it in a simple form, one of the most difficult tasks to pull off for filmmakers.
Besides excellent writing, the cinematography and direction deserve a big round of applause. The movie is a visual delight, to say the least. There are a number of visual cues and metaphors that play with the audience’s senses and create a mesmerizing sequence of scenes. Normally a two-hour plus movie tends to feel stretched and borderline lethargic, but not Miracle, where the whole cinematic cosmos comes together to make the film enjoyable throughout.
Also, a review of this movie would be incomplete without showering accolades on actor Aras Bulut Iynemli. Aras, as Memo, is a jukebox of different emotions in the movie. As a grown man with the mind and the innocence of a six-year-old, Aras performs his role with such dexterity and elegance that he can easily be ranked as one of the finest actors in global cinema.
Who should watch it?
“Miracle in Cell No. 7” is an emotionally charged, excruciatingly beautiful movie, meant to be watched by film lovers of all genres. Even for those not interested in tearjerkers, Miracle is worth a watch for its cinematic brilliance.