Leading actress from one of this year’s successful Turkish films, ‘Until I Lose My Breath’, Esme Madra won the Special Jury Prize with the director Emine Emel Balcı in the 16th Jeonju Film Festival, one of Asia’s most important festivals. Madra, who was noted for her performance in Seren Yüce’s Majority, continues to rise in the film industry, especially with her new movie.
Filmde canlandırdığınız karakteri çok sevdiğinizi okudum. Yetimhanede büyümüş, aile bireyleriyle travmatik ilişkileri olan, muhtemelen hayatınıza uzak bu genç işçi kadını neden sevdiniz sizce.
I read that you really liked your character in the film. Why do you think you liked this young labourer woman who grew up in an orphanage and had traumatic relations with her parents? It’s probably a characteristic you’re not really familiar with in your life.
She fascinates me with her stubbornness and that she does not give into anybody. And of course the fact that even though she went through a lot, she is not oppressed. But I guess there is no such thing as not liking the character you play. I don’t know how you would perform without liking your character.
Could it be our society’s defects that make you relate to Serap? Young women in Turkey, even though it isn’t the exact same story, often encounter sexism and oppression, right?
Yes, you don’t need to go through exactly what Serap did to be able to relate to her. Where we live, there are numerous attacks that keep us alert all the time. That’s why I think Serap is not going through anything that no other woman in this country would feel unfamiliar with. Unfortunately this is the truth…
We see that in one scene, which takes place on the street in the night time, Serap’s sister tells her with a superior attitude “Do not go your own way girl!” What does “going your own way” do to us?
To go your own way is always good. But I don’t know if this is something that is learned. Usually it’s a characteristic thing. I mean, you’re either that kind of a person and you’ve been going your own way for as long as you can remember, or not, it’s a bit like a reflex… I don’t know what it brings us. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t bring anything but you feel relieved.
“Everybody should have a place where they feel at home.”
“I think only politics has connections with evil. I mean besides the individuals, politics itself and the system we are in…”
The film tells more or less the story of ‘will the female make a living for herself within her nest’. How is your relationship with the concept of ‘nest’? Where is your nest?
I also think the film is about the concept of a nest/home. One day my childhood friend Ece sent me a sentence from Robert Frost: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”. Or something like that. I think, many attitudes of Serap comes from that feeling of homelessness. From desolation and homelessness… I also think the subject of ‘home’ is very important. Starting from my own home, there are houses and places that feel like home to me in my life. Maybe this is one of the most important things in a person’s life. I mean everybody should have a place where they feel at home. It could be any place.
Can we define Serap and her father’s relationship as a love-hate relationship? What affected you most with their connection? I’m asking because your father is also a well- known man; how is the Ömer Madra-Esme Madra relationship?
I’m not sure if we could call it a love-hate relationship. Maybe we could. But this is a bit of a one-sided relationship. I mean her father is not really a ‘father’. I think Serap’s obsession comes from the need to hold on to something. As if it’s not because she loves the man… Maybe it’s because she doesn’t really know him, she knows that he is her father and she hasn’t seen any bad signs coming from his way… My relation with my father is good, we love each other.
Did you have periods when you wanted to commit yourself to climate change, or to become an environmental activist when you were growing up? Are you like that now?
I did not feel an obligation like that. But climate change is not an issue that you can say “I’m not interested in” and ignore. I mean, it interests everyone whether they admit it or not. Because it’s a serious matter about the planet we live on. So we all must be environmental activists.
You got your name from a Salinger story: ‘For Esme – with love and squalor’. Do you like this story?
I love it. That girl is blond but as a child I always thought she was exactly like me. Since my childhood, I’ve been a fan of Salinger. I reread his stories. I buy Salinger books as gifts for those who haven’t read them. I also suggest it to everyone, especially his novels. My favourite is an older translation of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ (translation by Adnan Benk). It is somet- hing else!
Currently what else are you interested in your field?
We wrote a short film script with Ezgi (Kaplan). Ezgi directed, and I’m one of the actors. Now, it’s in the short film selection of Antalya Film Festival. I performed in Can Eskinazi’s short; ‘Ah Geceler!’. We do the best we can…
How are you? This might be the most frequently asked questions that get a nonchalant reply. Now as the last question; let’s ask it with its real meaning; how are you today, these days?
To be honest, it’s difficult to have a mood that’s is not affected by the current incidents taking place in this country. That’s why I can’t say that I am in high spirits. But we heal ourselves as we continue doing things we like and being with people we love. That’s why I’m good.
Interview: Güliz Arslan
Photography: Tabitha Karp