A beautiful coming-of-age story by Reha Erdem, Hayat Var*, opens with a shot of dark waters, which we later understand to be Hayat’s, the protagonist’s, viewpoint down from a small pier on the Bosphorus where she solely sits. It’s dusk. Hayat is shot from behind; she is the only figure on the screen against the vast sea accompanied by the sounds of the huge ships passing in the distance.
A man on a boat slowly approaches to pick her up. There is no dialogue between them. They travel on the Bosphorus until the night sets in and arrive at a small shack by the water.
The sea is significant in many ways in the film. But I especially like the way it is used as a location. This is not a film that takes place in Istanbul, but rather on Bosphorus. As much as Bosphorus is a strait that opens up to two seas, here it also serves as an obstruction for Hayat, tying her to the land. Although her home is by the sea, it also very remote from all that Bosphorus has to offer.
The opening scene becomes more powerful when viewed in comparison to the closing shots. Hayat gets on a boat with a kid – someone we could neither call a friend nor a lover – and leaves home. Although a bit wary at first, she gets jollier as they continue on Bosphorus. It’s daytime and the sun is shining. They pass the strait and reach the sea.
*The film’s English title is You are my sunshine, but the original title translates along the lines of “there is life / life exists”. And “life” means “hayat” in Turkish.