Screening of Asta Nielsen Films in IstanbulOya Kasap Ortaklan
Audiences in Ottoman Istanbul first had the opportunity to watch films in 1896, after the first public film screenings circulated in the world. As a result of the implications of the Ottoman–German alliance on cultural life during World War I, documentary and feature-length films that were produced in and about the German Empire, including the films of Asta Nielsen, were screened at movie theaters in Istanbul. Although there are studies which deal with the screening of Asta Nielsen films in Europe and some parts of Asia, no study has been conducted yet on the prevalence and recognition of these films in the Ottoman Empire. This article, which aims to fill this gap, focuses on the reception of Asta Nielsen’s female characters through her two prominent films. The article evaluates the interest shown in and the comments made about Nielsen’s films, as she represented a new type of woman in the film community during her time. This article also discussed and problematizes female roles and the historical status of female spectators in Istanbul in relation to these female images. The influence of the images of modern women portrayed by Asta Nielsen on female spectators at a time when the public presence and visibility of women began to be discussed in the Ottoman Empire and the experience of female spectators who went to the movies at Péra in relation to these images give important clues about the place of cinema in the process of secularization. Therefore, the article contributes to the monography of Asta Nielsen and Ottoman/German cinema and cultural history with a focus on the screening and reception of Asta Nielsen films at Péra.
Asta Nielsen Filmvorführungen in IstanbulOya Kasap Ortaklan
Mit den ersten kommerziellen Filmvorführungen, die weltweit im Umlauf waren, bekam das Publikum die Gelegenheit ab 1896 im osmanischen Istanbul Filme zu sehen. Durch die Osmanisch-Deutsche Allianz und ihrer Reflexion auf das kulturelle Leben wurden während des Ersten Weltkrieges die im Deutschen Reich produzierten Dokumentarfilme und Spielfilme in den Istanbuler Kinos gezeigt, darunter auch Asta Nielsen-Filme. Es gibt Studien, die sich auf Filmvorführungen von Asta Nielsen-Filmen in einigen Teilen Europas oder Asiens konzentrieren, doch gibt es noch keine Untersuchungen zur Verbreitung und Anerkennung ihrer Filme im Osmanischen Reich. Dieser Artikel, der diesen Mangel abdecken möchte, betont auch die Rezeption von Asta Nielsens Frauencharaktere in zwei herausragenden Filmen. Das Interesse und die Kommentare zu den Filmen von Nielsen, einer der Repräsentinnen der neuen Frau in der Filmwelt und ihrer Zeit, werden bewertet. Die Frauenrollen und die historische Stellung der Istanbuler Zuschauerinnen dieser Frauenbilder gegenüber wird thematisiert und in Frage gestellt. In einer Zeit, in der man begann, die öffentliche Präsenz und Sichtbarkeit von Frauen im Osmanischen Reich zu diskutieren, geben die Auswirkungen, der von Asta Nielsen verkörperten Bilder der modernen Frau, auf das weibliche Publikum, und die Erfahrungen der Zuschauerinnen, die in Péra ins Kino gingen, wichtige Hinweise auf die Verortung des Kinos im Säkularisierungsprozess. Damit leistet der Text einen Beitrag zur Monographie von Asta Nielsen und zur osmanischen/deutschen Kino- und Kulturgeschichte, indem er die Vorführung und Rezeption von Asta Nielsen-Filmen in Péra in den Mittelpunkt stellt.
After the first public screenings in different countries around the world, audiences in Istanbul first had the opportunity to see films on the silver screen starting at the end of 1896. Improving Ottoman-German relations also showed themselves in cultural life. In particular, with the declaration of the Second Constitution, documentary and featurelength films produced in the German Empire began to be screened at movie theaters in Istanbul and the screening of German films increased as a result of the alliance formed during the war. The films of Asta Nielsen, one of the first stars of the cinema, were also seen by audiences in Istanbul as of 1913. The screening of her narrative films continued and information about these films circulated throughout the 1910s. Full-length films started to be screened at movie theaters starting in 1910, and it has been observed that viewing habits started to change gradually during this period. As cinema evolved into an industry, it experienced a transition from travelling shows to permanent establishments. In other words, the act and experience of watching became more standardized.
Although there are studies which focus on the screening of Asta Nielsen films in European or Asian countries, no study has been conducted yet on their course of screening and reception in the Ottoman Empire and the early Republican Era of Turkiye. This article focuses on the circulation of information about cinema in Istanbul, the status of the female audience in the cinema, and the Asta Nielsen films that were screened at Péra between 1913-1918. The research provides historical background information about the screening of films in Istanbul, during a period which also included World War I, by describing the screening conditions of films. This knowledge aims to contribute to the cultural and cinematic history of the time.
It is very difficult to access all of the early films. Some have disappeared and some are waiting to be discovered in unknown places far away. The absence of early films, which researchers sometimes experience, requires using different methods in studies.
Accordingly, discourse analysis is mainly used in this article. News and advertisements compiled from newspapers and magazines are primary sources. Other primary sources are the films themselves. For this study, the Asta Nielsen films that were shown at Péra were watched to the greatest extent possible. Secondary sources describe the period in socioeconomic terms or provide insight on the history of cinema and specifically Asta Nielsen cinema.
The article consists of three main sections: Introduction, main section, and conclusion. The main section includes three sub-headings: 1. Cinema Life in the Ottoman Empire, 2. The Screening of Asta Nielsen Films at Péra, 3. The Female Image and the Reception of Asta Nielsen. In the first section, cinema life in Ottoman Istanbul during the period of 1910-1918 is discussed, with reference points. The first section also discusses the structure of film production and viewing, those who were involved in filmmaking, and the political actors who formalized the mode of screening that was most commonly used. Accordingly, the cinema is evaluated within its economic, political, and historical context. The second section deals with Asta Nielsen’s cinema career and her films. Also, this section discusses the screening conditions of Nielsen films and provides information on film screenings in Istanbul at the time. The conditions under which the films were screened are analyzed using data such as the date and place of screening, any significant features of the movie theater, for how long the films were screened, and the ticket prices. In the third section, the way the female characters played by Asta Nielsen were perceived in her time is discussed and the female roles portrayed by Asta Nielsen in her films Die Suffragette and Engelein are discussed in sub-headings. Reviews of Nielsen by Ottoman audiences also give clues to how the new woman of the period was perceived and evaluated. In this section, the article attempts to lay out the historical evidence for the presence of female audiences in movie theaters as public sphere based on the status of the female Ottoman audience in relation to the films, and the questions that the screenings bring to mind. Based on the data obtained, the screening of Asta Nielsen films at Istanbul Péra, their reception, and the status of female spectators at the movie theater in relation to these films are evaluated in the conclusion. Accordingly, the role that cinema played in the secularization of the Ottoman Empire and the definition of the status of women in the public sphere is read through Asta Nielsen’s films.