The Antenna Review
Turkish horror, The Antenna, offers a bleak, dystopian look at our future. It also acts as a powerful metaphor for freedom of speech in Turkey and the government’s control in a country battling oppression. The film marks the feature debut of director Orcum Behran, which is mostly assured and confident, but also one that also trips over its own feet.
Mehmet (Ihsan Önal) is the superintendent of an apartment building; his life is grey and mundane and filled with menial tasks and unfriendly residents. He arrives at work one morning to learn that the building is being fitted with a new broadcasting system, which will transmit its first broadcast at midnight. The engineer installing the system falls to his death and black goo starts oozing out from every crack and crevice of the building, seemingly having some horrific effects on the residents.
Behran’s film is full of tension and doom, but The Antenna also feels too overindulgent to have a lasting effect on the viewer. Clocking in at nearly 2 hours, it spends too much time with unnecessary scenes that add nothing to its narrative or the established and otherwise well-carried intensity.
The film is filled to the brim with anxiety about technology and its intrusion on our lives. This is a confined story - all of the events taking place in the apartment building, sealing away its residents in relative isolation, not unlike our own times at the moment. Through the new broadcasts, the government is always present and reminding the doomed residents of their presence. At times, The Antenna feels more committed to its allegories and metaphors rather than its narrative and characters, ultimately hurting it's chances of leaving a positive impression.
Önal is engaging and interesting as the purposely bland Mehmet, but the film occasionally suffers from the lack of big emotions and overall scares. Behran injects some shocking imagery at the most surprising moments, but this the same as scares and the film feels a little cheap. There is also too little to root for, essentially observing a day in the life of Mehmet and no matter how horrific it turns out to be, we simply don’t know enough about him to care. Without family or friends, his only motivation is to survive for himself, but it doesn’t translate particularly well onscreen nor make for a dramatic narrative.
The Antenna works best as a metaphor for the oppression and control felt in modern day Turkey. Black goo slowly creeping everywhere and turning people against each other feels a little uninspired but nevertheless remains effective and interesting. Behran also has a good eye for shot composition and his film features several striking images and sequences. These frames often have meaning behind them, but they frustratingly lack context, and in their abscence there is no reason to care about them, or the characters for that matter.
The most impressive quality of The Antenna is its sound design. Filled with irritatingly loud sound effects, but simultaneously not afraid to use silence to its gain, it sucks you in and refuses to let go until your ears are bleeding and you’re running for the hills to escape potential outbreaks of black sludge. While certainly impressive at times, The Antenna manages to hold the viewer’s attention for most of its runtime, although it is a feature in desperate need of editing. Less is often more and in the case of Behran’s debut film, a tighter, more concise film would have benefitted his otherwise impressive tone and visuals.
The Antenna is available in virtual cinemas October 2 and VOD on all major platforms and cable from October 22 in the US.