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Takva: A Man's Fear of God - arthouse and international DVD / drama DVD review
TAKVA Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Featuring: Erkan Can, Güven Kiraç, Meray Ülgen, Öznur Kula, Erman Saban, Murat Cemcir
Director: Özer Kiziltan   Distributor: Koch Lorber Films
DVD release: 09 December 2008   Runtime: 96 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (Turkish), Subtitles (English), Interview w/ director Özer Kiziltan, Trailer

The title of director Özer Kiziltan's Takva derives from one of the central tenets of Islam: the fear of God and the avoidance of sin. Through the protagonist, Muharrem, the audience is posed the question of whether or not it is possible, in a modern world, to live life according to the principles of Islamic religion and faith.

A devout Muslim, Muharram practices his faith diligently and in all seriousness. The opening scenes show his ordinary life - his days spent working at a sack merchant's store, his evenings at his worn apartment where dinner is simple fare heated over a single gas burner. While daily prayer is part of his deeply religious regimen, his sexual arousal and wet dreams are the source of his great agony and repentence. The highlights of his life (apart from his work) are the local tea shop and the mosque.

Enter the sheikh, or leader of his religious sect. The sheik informs Muharrem that he has been chosen as a rent collector for the properties of the seminary. So high is the Sheikh's standing in the local community that Muharrem's sack merchant boss relieves him of his duties every morning. Muharrem, too, considers it his good fortune to be an instrument for fulfillment of God's purpose.

As a rent collector, Muharram realizes for the first time in his life the conflict between his spiritual and religious beliefs and the practical requirements of his job. The piety and kindness of Islamic teachings propel him to forgive the rent of a poor sick tenant, but he can't go far - the sheikh tells him that this rent loss will cost a student his seat in the seminary.

Muharrem soon acquires new possessions like a cell phone, a new wardrobe, and a car, which he is told are to enable him to work faster and manage the seminary property better. These worldly possessions, coupled with his inability to extend charity to people who need it most, make his life a struggle for Muharrem, a struggle that he ultimately fails to cope with.

Muharrem's efforts to live a life defined by the ideals of Islam - piety, goodness and avoidance of sin - can succeed insofar as he can keep himself cocooned away from the institutions of his faith. The paradox that Takva presents is that it is not modern life but the institutions of religion (shown here as a local Islamic order) that present the greatest obstacles to religious principles. Therein lies the poignancy of the believer's story.
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reviewed by Shampa Chatterjee
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