The first thing which one will undoubtedly conclude about Orange is that its name comes to odds with its nature – a light and jovial color describing a thematically dark and depressing visual experience shot in a fully black and white filter. One soon finds out that this intentional mismatch is not the only set of contrasting elements: what on surface level might seem like a happy enough marriage is exactly the opposite, while an apparently banal and minuscule favor undertaken by main character Gizem in order to facilitate a friend’s very promising date ends up irreversibly messing up her own love life.
Hakan Ünal repeatedly stresses out throughout his roughly 22-minute long film that life is not always what it appears to be, as he juggles with dark themes, such as domestic violence, rape and abortion. Each of the motifs are aptly and suggestively represented, and some scenes are so grimly portrayed that they become difficult to watch – and this is certainly not a point of criticism, but a compliment in just how evocative and full of substance that they end up being.
The bleak, gloomy atmosphere hand painted by the events filtered through black and white is further enhanced by the sound design and the haunting, sparsely-utilized score. The mood recreated by Orange is almost comparable to David Lynch’s masterpiece, Eraserhead – with an almost permanent low hum accompanying most scenes, and a partly absurdist mix of elements visualizing married life and the promise of a child from a completely different angle than usual – a feat which clearly sets Hakan Ünal’s project apart.
Probably in an effort to even further boost the unsettling allure of the film, certain interesting motifs are used. Of course, fog and wind are rather stereotypical manners to rapidly inject further drama, but Orange equally plays well with shadows and mirror reflections. Two rather evocative scenes showcase this, but the film as a whole ultimately fails to add further meaning to these elements other than a stylistic bonus. Interestingly, however, the story arc surrounding Gizem’s girlfriend is left unexplored, and to the latitude of the audience. Given a series of subtle elements scattered around, might we infer that her date has the potential of escalating into a situation similar to Gizem’s life?
It is clear that both main characters show strained psyches: Gizem struggles in an unhappy marriage and in an ironic twist of fate is left heavily depressed by what would have otherwise been wonderful news, while her alcoholic husband seems to grow uncomfortable even in the company of his closest friends. However, while the acting from the two is mostly convincing, when it comes to dialogues and oral conversation, the quality of their performance veers off. Furthermore, the rough cuts are not exactly the most welcome editing technique in this case, while the subtitles abound in grammar mistakes and phrasing problems, minorly affecting the understanding of certain scenes as a result. The often incoherent and difficult to follow events also affect how the message might be interpreted.
Despite its shortcomings, Orange is a well-made film which will certainly shock its audiences, even to the point that some individuals might not overly enjoy it due to its vividness and depressing tone. Just like the aforementioned Lynchian Eraserhead, Hakan Ünal’s film breeds discomfort, which in my fair opinion is exactly what a thoughtful and well-executed project on this topic should do.