Yol (1982)

Yol (1982)

“My life’s nothing but a nightmare.”

Several Turkish prisoners return home to their families for a week’s leave, and must deal with the consequences of their long absence.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Homecoming
  • Infidelity
  • Middle East
  • Prisoners

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this award-winning Turkish film is “fascinating, brutal, [and] depressing” — a truly provocative and disturbing viewing experience. He writes that the “main story is about a man who finds that his family has banished him because he was responsible for his brother-in-law’s death,” and “now he suffers guilt, humiliation, and fear of reprisal from his in-laws.” Another story involves a “prisoner [who] discovers that his unfaithful wife has been chained in a cell for eight months; forbidden to speak, even to her young son, or to be touched; given only bread and water for sustenance; denied an opportunity to bathe; [and] left to wallow in her own filth;” his goal is to attempt “to take her home to her brother, but they must cross five miles of frozen terrain.”

The central premise of the film — that prisoners “on leave” must eventually return to captivity — is unusual, and infuses the film with a sense of bitter fatality. Ironically, life is not a whole lot better on the outside than in prison, and the line between the two is shakily drawn. Indeed, Peary posits that director Yilmaz Guney (a former prisoner himself) is attempting to show how “in Turkey, hostility and repression exist on every level of society: guards over prisoners, men over women, the heads of families over their relatives, the people themselves over those they consider ‘sinners’.”

This realistic film is hard to watch — not least “because it jumps back and forth in time and between the various stories and because all the men have mustaches and resemble each other” (!):

.. but it’s not easily forgotten.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An uncompromising look at the brutality of life in Turkey

  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
Yes. This is harsh but must-see viewing.


  • Foreign Gem

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


4 thoughts on “Yol (1982)

  1. First viewing. A once-must, as a valuable (if unsettling) look inside another culture.

    How often is the average film fanatic going to get the opportunity to see a Turkish film?, let alone one that received such well-deserved acclaim?: multi-winner at Cannes; winner of awards in France and London, and from the National Board of Review in the US.

    Yes, admittedly, it is a tough watch – but, while it’s not easy, it gets clearer as the story develops. At first I wondered, ‘Why are these five guys getting a week’s leave? Why are they even in prison in the first place?’ It was only by reading up a little on the film that I discovered it is “a portrait of Turkey in the aftermath of the 1980 Turkish coup d’état.” (Wikipedia)

    The film was banned in Turkey until 1999. It has apparently existed in different prints with different running times. (Wikipedia lists it at 124 min.; IMDb lists it at 1 hr., 54 min. The print I saw was around 1 hr. 50 min.)

    Perhaps the best way to watch it is to turn off your Western brain and be a witness; just absorb it. There’s a lot that’s eye-opening here; some things that are disturbing; certainly more than enough to be informed about.

  2. Curious how you saw this, David. Did you find a streaming method (or do you own a copy)? I watched a version on youtube about a year ago. I found one with English captioning, but it seemed to be in a strange order. I know there is a pristine youtube version that is 124 minutes, but it doesn’t have any captioning options (mainly English).

    Definitely an interesting film that stood in my mind (even using the version I saw). Award winning that basically difficult for me to find – even someone who has the Criterion Channel and Kanopy (along with the others).

    I would just like to see a version that I know is definitely in the correct order.

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