Innocence of Memories: Orhan Pamuk's Museum & Istanbul

Directed by Grant Gee

Starring Pandora Colin and Mehmet Ergen

Orhan Pamuk – Turkey’s Nobel laureate for Literature – opens a museum in Istanbul. A museum that’s a fiction: its objects trace a tale of doomed love in 70’s Istanbul. The film takes a tour of the objects as the starting point for a trip through images, landscapes and the chemistry of the city. A film about Istanbul, love, memory and loss.

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  • ★★★★ review by Aidan Fatkin on Letterboxd

    Reviewed on Cinema Eclectica #66 - The Biscuits for Movies Initiative

    Innocence of Memories is a difficult film. Not difficult in the sense that it is hard to watch. I say difficult because it is a film that could fit into multiple genres. It is not classified as a documentary, nor a drama film. It is neither fact, nor fiction. A more accurate term I would use is an essay film. Grant Gee and Orhan Pamuk's celebration on the story of Istanbul is a captivating, yet uncompromising portrait, painted as a city literally built out of memories.

    To shed some light on the background of Orhan Pamuk and the context of the film, Pamuk is a Turkish novelist, screenwriter and academic, famously known for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. A year later, he released his next novel, The Museum of Innocence which details the story of an affair between the son of one of the richest families in Istanbul, and his much poorer cousin, a shop girl. In the book, the male lead begins to collect objects that he associates with his cousin. Fast forward a couple of years, Pamuk actually established a 'Museum of Innocence', similar to the one described in the novel. The actual museum also displays objects associated with the period of time the novel is set in.

    And this is the point where Grant Gee steps in, he presents a film that fully utilizes a voice over narration from the female lead, Fusun describing her life and the actual events documented from civilians about the 'city of memories'. It is deliberately jarring, self-reflective and difficult to describe. But I like to think of it as a celebration of the culture of Turkey. The more you think about this, the more it starts to unravel and unlock key moments in your brain that can bring up interesting parallels within your own culture.

    With a deliberate mix of the fictional narration, Gee's camera glides through the streets of Istanbul, offering a world that is ultimately nurtured by empty streets, glowing light and stray dogs. In Innocence of Memories there is no talking heads, so when the film is interviewing citizens such as taxi drivers, you get a world that is opened up a lot more three-dimensionally, but also get that sense of space and change in society. To me, a lot of the gorgeous cinematography could be described as POV shots.

    The actual museum works through different objects on display from the 1970's, such as a collection of cigarette butts, shoes etc. It doesn't give a sense of abandonment. I think it gives a sense of a period that is long lost in time. An area that is no longer familiar with the present. I haven't anything quite like it before, Innocence of Memories is a recent film that like its subject, will be preserved for future generations.

  • ★★★★ review by LWLies on Letterboxd

    There’s a swooning romantic melodrama reminiscent of ’40s Hollywood nestled at the core of this atmospheric portrait of contemporary Istanbul from director Grant Gee. Here, he collaborates with Turkey’s Nobel-prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, adopting his 2008 novel ‘The Museum of Innocence’ as a through-line for a film weaving together music, photography, TV chat show appearances and haunting Steadicam shots of the city at night...

    READ THE FULL REVIEW AT LITTLE WHITE LIES

  • ★★★★ review by Terry Levenberg on Letterboxd

    Visually haunting and poetic introduction to Pamuk's Istanbul. His book is matched by a small museum he has created that assembles moments and mementos of the book which brings the poignant and sad story of a long term love affair that ends just as it is fulfilled.

  • ★★★★½ review by Rolmar Baldonado on Letterboxd

    A reflective tapestry of love and longing through the night streets of Istanbul. Mesmerising!

  • ★★★★★ review by Kamran Ahmed on Letterboxd

    My favourite film of last year, which I was unable to log in.

    98/100 - Seeing Innocence of Memories provided one of the few times that I’ve left a theater in awe, as if life’s essence had shifted in those past 90 minutes of pure cinema.

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