See Classic Film Scenes Imagined as Ottoman Paintings

Slate's Culture Blog
July 12 2012 3:01 PM

Classic Film Scenes as Ottoman Paintings

For his senior graduation project, Turkish student Murat Palta crafted a portfolio of paintings in the style of 16th century Ottoman miniatures. Bright and formal, they were modeled after the book illuminations that circulated through royal libraries after the conquest of Istanbul. The trippy part: These illustrations take iconic scenes from Inception, A Clockwork Orange, Alien, Star Wars, The Godfather, Scarface, The Shining, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day as their subjects. Gangsters wear taqiyahs; Arnold Schwarzenegger rides a graceful steed. Palta says on his project web page that he aims to “blend traditional ‘oriental’ motifs and contemporary ‘western’ cinema.”

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A scene from Inception as illustrated by Murat Palta

Murat Palta. Reprinted courtesy of the artist.

Well, mission accomplished. There’s something uncanny in the artist’s pairing of the bygone and the futuristic. After all, Suleiman the Magnificent and Ripley may strike some people as equally remote.  Not to mention that for many American viewers, the exotic quality of the Turkish ornaments suits the otherworldliness of such characters as Darth Vader and Yoda. The geometric style fits Inception’s four-tiered dreamscape. Emblems of violence—guns, swords, knives—are made beautiful with swirls of patterned smoke or crescent curves. Gun fights, extraterrestrial eruptions, and other scenes of chaos come to life in rigorously ordered ways.

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For all their bizarreness, though, the paintings seem familiar too. Some say that our movies function as contemporary myths—that they capture elemental scenes we’d recognize anywhere. This treatment of eight science fiction classics goes a ways toward proving that point. (And if it proves it with lunettes and arabesques, so much the better: Palta’s work also implicitly rebukes the often ridiculous portrayal of Muslims in Hollywood films.)*

* This post originally suggested that Palta's art might rebuke stereotypes about Arabs in Hollywood. The Ottoman Turks were not Arabs. 

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

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