Repping a distinct strand in Italo cinema of academic, talky approaches to historical subjects, “The Dervish” is initially made more palatable by excellent, textured lensing of its Turkish locations and actors who make their characters more real people than talking heads. Finally, however, pic is scuppered for any auds other than the most devoted by its length, which runs out of gas around the 110-minute mark.
Ahmed Nurudin (Antonio Buil Puejo), a 40-year-old dervish (Koranic teacher) during the repressive Ottoman Empire around 1900, reflects on a shameful deed he did two years earlier to attain his respected status. In flashback, we see how he attempted to save his wastrel younger brother from execution by abandoning his religious detachment and trying to use his influence to sway the authorities. Though the pic is talky, it’s largely good talk, examining Nuridin’s lapse of faith and of belief in divine mercy, which later leads him to betray a friend (Cezmi Baskin). Film is also given some dramatic shape by Claudio Collepiccolo’s deeply shadowed chiaroscuro photography for interiors and bright, sunny lensing of landscapes, along with a resonant, Turkish-flavored score played on native instruments.