You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Butterfly’s Dream’

A glossily romantic take on the story of two Turkish poets during the Second World War.

Kivanc Tatlitug, Belcim Bilgin, Mert Firat, Farah Zeynep Abdullah, Yilmaz Erdogan, Ahmet Mumtaz Taylan, Taner Birsel, Ipek Bilgin, Devrim Yakut, Aksel Bonfil, Servet Pandur, Ayten Soykokemin Gursoy, Celalettin Demirel, Funda Sirinkal, Engin Senkan, Salih Kalyon. By Dennis Harvey

Purportedly Turkey’s most expensive film production to date, “The Butterfly’s Dream” offers a glossily romantic take on a story at least loosely derived from real life. Its subjects are Muzaffer Uslu and Rustu Onur, two aspiring provincial poets who both died young of tuberculosis. The sort of glam costume fantasy in which any ordinary moment might be set against a spectacular landscape or sunset, this tale of youthful high spirits, friendship and variably requited love is pleasant eye-candy without the depth or edge to escape cliched conventionality. The result, which was Turkey’s Oscar submission last year, may be too commercial in feel for markets where foreign-language films are strictly arthouse fare, but it should repeat its home-turf success in other Arab and expat territories, with somewhat wider home-format sales likely.

This long-gestating project for writer-helmer-thesp Yilmaz Erdogan (“Vizontele”), a poet himself, has singlehandedly “made” the reputations of its protagonists nearly 70 years after their deaths (collections of their hitherto obscure work hit the bestseller charts after the film was released in Egypt last year). It’s hard to judge the poetry’s value in the brief excerpts recited here. But in any case, “The Butterfly’s Dream” is a portrait of the artists in the old mode of “A Song to Remember” and such, their creative labor seeming mostly a matter of inspirational lightning strikes amid hardships that somehow manage to seem glamorous. In a depressed WWII-era economy, the characters here complain they have little food or money, yet that (or even TB) scarcely seems to hobble their ability to live life as if on perpetual holiday — they romp, they gambol, they stroll and lounge, always looking terrific in their period threads.

We meet Muzaffer (Kivanc Tatlitug) and Rustu (Mert Firat) in pre-Pearl Harbor 1941, with the war still confined to Europe. Still, things are tough in Zonguldak, a small city on the Black Sea; the political regime is oppressive, and jobs are scarce. Committed to their (as yet unpublished) poetry, however, the two young men mostly ignore any deprivations, and find mutual inspiration when they first see Suzan (Belcim Bilgin), a rich schoolgirl who has just returned from Istanbul. They convince her to participate in an original play they’re rehearsing (as it’s being written) about the dangerous, miserable conditions suffered by local coal-mine workers.

Popular on Variety

But after much chaste frolicking, their friendship is rendered more furtive by Suzan’s disapproving father. Then Rustu, his condition worsening, is accepted to a distant island sanitarium, where he meets a love of his own (Farah Zeynep Abdullah); further wooing of Suzan is thus surrendered to Muzaffer, whose health soon deteriorates as well.

With its lively pace (trimmed for international release from an original running time of 138 minutes), likable performers and lush picture-postcard look, “The Butterfly’s Dream” is to poetry what “Titanic” was to nautical disasters. History gets somewhat obscured by the pervasive gauzy romanticism, which denies us any real character complexity or narrative surprises.

With his sensitive good looks, model-turned-thesp Tatlitug fares best, given the pic’s correlation between the picturesque and the soulful. Bilgin is OK but doesn’t make Suzan seem very special, let alone the enchantress her poor suitors see her as. Other characters are solidly cast (Erdogan himself plays the boys’ mentor Behcet Necatigil, who, unlike them, would achieve fame as a poet within his lifetime), but not given much dimension in the screenplay.

Design contributions are invariably handsome, if occasionally bordering on the overripe, particularly Rahman Altin’s orchestral score. Tech package is first-rate.

Film Review: 'The Butterfly's Dream'

Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 6, 2013. Running time: 123 MIN. (Original title: "Kelebegin ruyasi")

Production: (Turkey) A BKM presentation of a Mamutfilm production in association with Bocek Yapim. (International sales: BKM, Istanbul.) Produced by Necati Akpinar. Executive producers, Oguz Peri, Pelin Ekinci Kaya.

Crew: Directed, written by Yilmaz Erdogan. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Gokhan Tiryaki; editors, Bora Goksingol, Cagri Turkkan; music, Rahman Altin; production designer, Kivanc Baruonu; art director, Hakan Yarkin; costume designer, Gulumser Gurtunca; sound mixer (Dolby Digital), Levent Intepe; sound designer, Burak Topalakci; re-recording mixers, Adam Daniel, Graham Daniel; casting, Rezzan Cankir.

With: Kivanc Tatlitug, Belcim Bilgin, Mert Firat, Farah Zeynep Abdullah, Yilmaz Erdogan, Ahmet Mumtaz Taylan, Taner Birsel, Ipek Bilgin, Devrim Yakut, Aksel Bonfil, Servet Pandur, Ayten Soykokemin Gursoy, Celalettin Demirel, Funda Sirinkal, Engin Senkan, Salih Kalyon. By Dennis Harvey

More Film


    Secuoya, Planeta Launch Madrid Content City, Site of Netflix’s First European Production Hub

    Spain’s Secuoya Studios has teamed with publishing giant the Planeta Group to expand Madrid Content City, the audiovisual complex that hosts Netflix first European Production Hub. Madrid Content City will multiply by a factor of seven its current operating area of 22,000 square-meters (236,806 square-feet). In total, Madrid Content City will span 140,000 square-meters (1.5 [...]

  • Imogen Poots

    'Black Christmas' Star Imogen Poots on Why Male Horror Fans Should See Slasher Remake

    “Black Christmas” is the second remake of the 1974 slasher classic, which centers on a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown murderer. While the original had the female protagonists (SPOILER) offed, in this one, the women fight back. “It’s been called a re-imagining of the original, and I think, in ways that the [...]

  • Imogen Poots as Riley in "Black

    'Black Christmas': Film Review

    “Black Christmas,” a low-budget Canadian horror movie released in 1974, was a slasher thriller with a difference: It was the very first one! Okay, there were more than a few precedents, from “Psycho” (the great-granddaddy of the genre) to “The Last House on the Left” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” to Mario Bava’s “A [...]

  • David Benioff, D.B. Weiss. Creators and

    'Game of Thrones' Creators to Develop H.P. Lovecraft Movie at Warner Bros.

    Following their exit from the “Star Wars” universe, “Game of Thrones” co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have found their replacement pic, signing on to produce an untitled thriller based on the graphic novel “Lovecraft” for Warner Bros. It is unknown if they will also direct the project, but they’ve already set Phil Hay and [...]

  • Little Women Greta Gerwig BTS

    Greta Gerwig and 'Little Women' Crew Mix Modern and Classical

    Greta Gerwig wrote and directed Sony’s “Little Women,” a new look at Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 19th-century classic. Eager to pay tribute to her artisan colleagues, Gerwig says, “It was a joy for me to work with all these people. It’s a movie that’s impossible to create without world-class artists. They killed themselves for me!” [...]

  • Honey Boy

    Shia LaBeouf's 'Honey Boy' Adds Unusual Twist to Oscar's History With Kids

    Hollywood has made many terrific films about childhood, and many about filmmaking. Amazon’s “Honey Boy,” which opened Nov. 8, combines the two: A movie with a child’s POV of the industry. That unique angle could be a real benefit during awards season, and the film’s backstory — with Shia LaBeouf as the main attraction — will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content