Yol (1982) Film. Directors : Serif Goren, Yilmaz Guney

Yol (1982)

A harsh portrait of Turkey, its people and its authorities, shown through the stories of five prisoners given a week’s home leave, and the problems they encounter in adjusting to the world outside.(imdb)

In Yilmaz Güney’s extraordinary Turkish odyssey (filmed by Gören from his script and detailed instructions while he was in jail), five prisoners are allowed a week’s parole to journey home. In many ways it’s a story about the tragedy of distances: the geographical and historical ones that still separate Turkey, and the distances imposed upon people by a military state and by a heritage that still expects husbands to punish by death wives taken in adultery. A kind of distance, too, makes this a film of the highest order. Its homesickness, for freedom above all, is very particular. Güney can’t go home, and completed the film in exile. This perspective gives great clarity to his picture of the state of the nation, a state in suspense where something has to change, which gathers complexity and shifts effortlessly into universal allegory. The film’s poetry, its combination of sound and image especially, has an unconscious innocence no longer available to most European and American narratives, and it is inspired by an enormous compassion for the suffering people endure at each other’s hands in a world where the strong pick upon the weak, the weak upon the weaker.


Yol tells the story of several Kurdish prisoners on furlough in Turkey. Seyit Ali (Tarık Akan) travels to his house and finds that his wife (Şerif Sezer) has betrayed him and works as a prostitute. She was caught by her family and held captive for Seyit Ali to end her life in an honor killing. Though apparently determined at first, he changes his mind when his wife starts to freeze while travelling in the snow. Despite his efforts to keep her alive, he eventually fails. His wife’s death relieves Seyit Ali from family pressure and he is saved from justice since she freezes but he has an internal struggle and must return to jail.

Mehmet Salih (Halil Ergün) has been arrested for his role in a heist with his brother-in-law, whom he abandoned as he was being shot by police. His in-laws want nothing to do with him, and he is finally forced to tell his wife Emine (Meral Orhonsay) the truth. Emine and Mehmet Salih decide to run away and get on a train. On the train, they get caught in the toilet while having long-awaited sex with each other. They are saved from an angry mob by the train’s officers and held in a cabin before being handed over to officials. There, a young boy from Emine’s family who boarded the train shoots both Mehmet Salih and Emine.

Ömer (Necmettin Çobanoğlu) returns to his village. Being a border village, it has a struggle with the army due to smuggling. Ömer visits and arranges to cross the border to escape prison. Though Ömer is clearly determined, he gives up after his brother is shot dead while smuggling. Through his brother’s death, Ömer has inherited the responsibilities of his brother’s wife and children as dictated by tradition.

Each prisoner in the film suffers from a conflict that threatens his freedom, with tradition also imprisoning him.