Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Hamam: The Turkish Bath (Il bagno turco)

Ferzan Ozpetek (1997)

Italy, Turkey, Spain

Genre: Drama

Francesco, a young interior designer living in Rome with his wife and business partner, Marta, inherits an old house in Istanbul from his estranged aunt Anita. Reluctantly, he suspends his busy schedule in Rome and travels to Istanbul in order to sell the property. When he finds out that there is a hamam in the house he becomes interested in the property and in the Turkish tradition of the hamam. He befriends the family of Osman, the servants and companions of his deceased aunt. In the company of this warm and loving Turkish family Francesco discovers a new way of life, much calmer and more caring than the sterile and hectic life style he used to lead in Italy. When it becomes apparent that the entrepreneur who wants to acquire the property is in the process of buying up the entire quarter and plans to transform it into a modern shopping and entertainment centre, Franceso changes his mind.  Instead of selling the old house and the hamam he starts to restore the Turkish bath to its former glory. Francesco puts off his return to Italy, learns Turkish and develops an intimate friendship with Mehmet, the son of Osman.

During his extended sojourn in Turkey he discovers a bundle of letters from which he learns that his aunt, to whom everybody refers as 'Madam', was an unconventional woman who lead an adventurous and sensually exciting life and who found true happiness and fulfilment in Istanbul. At a time when hamams were already going out of fashion, she re-opened a hamam, taking pleasure in giving men an ambience where they could indulge in sensual pleasures. 

Meanwhile Marta's extra-marital affair has developed into a serious relationship and she travels to Istanbul in order to persuade Francesco to agree to a divorce.  However, the Francesco she finds is a changed man, capable of enjoying life and in touch with his  sexual identity. Still, she gives away her wedding ring and makes Francesco sign the divorce papers, planning to return to Rome as soon as possible. Then, out of the blue, Francesco is stabbed, presumably an act of retaliation for not selling the property and thus thwarting the purchaser's plans to tear down the entire district and develop a shopping centre. Francesco dies and Marta puts on his wedding ring. She abandons her plan to return to Italy and accepts the legacy of 'Madam': she ensures that the restauration of the hamam is completed, she starts smoking 'Madam's pipe, reads her letters and becomes enthralled by the sensuous spirit of the place and the light breeze from the Bosporus that seems to love her. 



Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 02 Jun 2006 •





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