"The Fault in Our Stars" is this summer's blockbuster. It belongs to that tear-jerking and profitable genre, the weepie. Turkey's filmgoers and Yeşilçam producers have long been fans of the genre
"TheFault in Our Stars" which opened in American cinemas in early June (it opened in Turkish cinemas on Friday), has become one of the most profitable films of the year and made more than $100 million (TL 212 million) in less than a month in the U.S. Adapted from John Green's 2010 novel of the same name by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the film perfectly fits into the "weepie" genre. It is a true tear-jerker and one needs to have a heart of stone not to be moved by its story.
Indeed, there were reports of legions of teenagers crying in cinemas worldwide. The hysteria produced by "The Fault in Our Stars" has also helped increase sales of tissues. Some critics advised viewers to bring at least two packs of tissues: so tragic and moving is the film's finale.
In the film, Shailene Woodley plays Hazel, a young cancer patient who is forced by her parents to attend a support group. Ansel Elgort plays Augustus Waters, a charismatic and handsome young man, whose cancer is in remission. They meet in the support group, fall in love, and read "An Imperial Affliction," a novel about a cancer-stricken young girl, before deciding to visit the book's author who lives in Amsterdam. The film's trailer is enough to make you cry if you are the type to weep. And watching the film may remind you of the films that had made you cry the most in the past.
I was eleven years old when I saw "My Girl," a film about two best friends, both aged 11. The allergic boy of the duo dies at the end and since I have identified with him throughout the film, his death had felt like my own.
Then you have the favorite weepie of many: "Ghost," about a murdered man who continues to remain on earth and follow the love of his life as a ghost. I remember seeing people cry while watching it but it wasn't until 2008, when Çağan Irmak's "Issız Adam" was released, that I witnessed the level of hysteria a weepie can produce.
At the entrance of a film theater, I was shocked at the sight of dozens of crying men and women walking out of the film, in a speechless, miserable, state.
So what is the particular attraction of those films? Why do we pay to cry our eyes off? Film critic Cüneyt Cebenoyan, who defines himself as a "weepie-fan," said those films remind us of a kind of purity and innocence. "They sanctify that innocence and make us cry for that innocence.
We grow up, the world becomes a more polluted place but we don't run out of tears for weepies." Cebenoyan listed his three favorite weepies: "Love Story," "The Champ" and Çağan Irmak's "Babam ve Oğlum" (My Father and Son). "Love Story" is arguably the most successful weepie ever made.
"It is about class and an impossible love, and this focus makes the film special," critic Esin Küçüktepepınar said. "'Love Story' admittedly has a basic structure but it is one that helped create a new audience during 1970s."
The box-office potential of weepies have been discovered and aptly exploited by the Turkish film industry as well. "In Turkish films, tuberculosis stands in the way of lovers. Metin Erksan's 'Hicran Yarası' and adaptations from the novels of the author Keriman Halis, all focus on young women whose dreams of perfect love get destroyed by tuberculosis," Küçüktepepınar said.
Diseases and disabilities seem to produce the backbone of Yeşilçam melodramas, which feature a large gallery of characters, including blinded singers and pianists, as well as healthy men who find themselves confined to wheelchairs.
Küçüktepınar also reminded of Yılmaz Erdoğan's "The Butterfly's Dream" as a film that uses illness as one of its main themes. I asked the film critic Selin Gürel to list the canon of tear-jerking classic films.
Her list includes "The Notebook," "Ghost," "Titanic," "Love Story," "Steel Magnolias," "Terms of Endearment" and from more recent times, "The Impossible," "Marley & Me," "About Time" and "The Broken Circle Breakdown."
Gürel pointed to how weepies is actually another name for most Yeşilçam films. "Crying like mad is an important aspect of our national culture," she said. "We are addicted to weeping and weepies because we don't know an alternative way of expressing our emotions. But there is also an international aspect of crying among strangers in a dark film theater. Audiences are ready to weep as they enter the theaters. Weeping in cinemas has become a necessity for many."
According to Gürel, those weepies have a therapeutic effect. "We should remember that although the audiences cry while watching weepies, they do so for very different reasons."
And what about her favorite weepie? "'Bright Star,' 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Another Year'" Gürel began, before adding "Vesikalı Yarim" and "Cahil Periler" to her list. It seems as if she could go on, since the lists are long when it comes to weepies. We have so many films and reasons to make us
bawl our eyes out in film theaters.