Hesitation Wound : Messy Moralities in Meditative Jury Drama

By Muhammad Bahajjaj


Hesitation Wound offers a slow-burn jury drama that instigates the reality of morality’s complexity. The film does not necessarily hold the same dramatic energy as a typical courtroom drama, yet this is a film that offers depth in perspective on law’s frailty and ethic’s haze. It is a world where bodies both obscure and reveal secrets. It is a world where the affective balances the cognitive for a peek at truth. It is a world which can only be understood as something felt and thought in getting to the peak of ruth.

Hesitation Wound’s overall narrative is one etched in ambiguity. In Selman Nacar’s Venice debut, Canan (Tülin Özen) returns from the big city to her small-town province in Turkey in lieu of her mother’s worsening health condition, now in a vegetative state. The big-time lawyer additionally accepts a court case to defend a suspected murder, Musa (Ogulcan Uslu)—all while battling a justice system that operates on manipulation and partiality. As attempts turn into dead ends, time and circumstance force Canan’s hand. She resorts to utilizing family issues, both her own and others’, as weapons in legal battles. The result is a road to justice littered with half-truths and corrupted intents. To win the machine, one operates as a marred cog. A Critique of Turkey’s justice system becomes the foundation to speak on the messy, incessant, ambiguous nature of personal and public duties, inevitably colliding with each other.

Yet the film’s aesthetic choices that accompany the film’s narrative are puzzling. With its more than simple style, cinematography and editing, the film is matched by an extremely monotonous documentary-like execution. Yet one would expect clarity and objectivity as guiding principles for Hesitation Wound at large with its dry quasi-cinéma vérité framework—a precedent to tell a story as it is. But the outcome is only Socratic. One knows one does not know. Canan’s defendant, Musa, remains with no verdict by the film’s end. Whether he had committed the murder or not remains unresolved. The possibility of the deceased’s son as a potential suspect remains un-investigated by the police. The proposed cruelty and corruption enacted by the deceased himself, including a manipulation of law, is buried with him in the grave. What surfaces is an asynchronous film style and narrative intent—a clear vague film.

Hesitation Wound’s contradictory outcome is additionally reflected in its characters. Almost everyone in the film is crucified by hypocrisy. Canan, in a move of “compassion”, at last signs the papers to her mother’s death, allowing her parent’s last wish to be an organ donor to be fulfilled. Yet, this is the same Canan who informs her case judge of the possibility of resolving his hospitalised niece’s case, offering him the possibility of taking her late mother’s kidneys. The result is a judge’s favour won. The result is further delay of Musa’s life-in-prison sentence. The result is an enforced conflict of interest in justice that ensures Canan’s case more life against more death (her mother and the accused’s victim). The irony is morally dizzying, putting the film’s aesthetics in an equal position of moral vertigo: a clear-vague film for a right-wrong world. The stakes in private life are manipulated into public spheres, and the lines that ensure impartiality blurs. If the law is an objective attempt at morality, then it is an attempt built on subjective, failing bodies.

However, while bodies are exploited to hide moral truths, they inadvertently reveal secrets as well. They, especially wounded bodies, turn into potential gateways for clarity. Musa reveals rather belatedly the self-inflicted scars on his arms. His bodily infringements, his “hesitation wounds”, are evidence in court. How can a man who cannot take his own life take another? Additionally, for Canan, having neglected her mother for a law career, only returning to meet her dissolution, while juggling a losing case against a manipulative justice system, breaks down in tears. The big-time lawyer hides a small, withered self, broken within. A subsequent doctor’s appointment would prove just as much. In court she experiences haemorrhages, and a later diagnosis reveals sickness amid stress. Her life is at risk if she does not attend to her health. A dialectic that ignores bodily depths remains at best incomplete, at worst, death-inducing.

Wounds turn into revelations and the takeaway holds weight in jurisprudence. The takeaway involves shared sympathies with visceral signs of suffering, exploring them as pieces of history to complete pictures of truth. The takeaway invites grace—a commiseration with lapses in human behaviour, suggested as an inseparable aspect of holistic justice. Absolute evil becomes harder to codify in this more than confounding courtroom manoeuvre, inviting forgiveness into a world founded upon realms of ambiguity, paralysis, inaction, and hesitation.