Director:  Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Year: 2006
Rating: 7.5
Country: Turkey

This is from the renowned Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan who won the Grand Prix three years ago in Cannes for “Uzak” and won the Fipresci Award this year at Cannes for this film. Now honestly I have no idea what the Fipresci Award is for but I assume it is of merit. I also admit to knowing absolutely nothing about Turkish films as this was my first one and I have no idea if this is in any way representative of them (I hope to convince a friend to begin a blog on Turkish films so that I can learn more about them). I came away with a few broad impressions of the film – it feels very European to me – in particular Italian or French with its slow calm intimate exploration of a souring relationship and everyone in Turkey seems to spend an enormous amount of time drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes!

It is beautifully shot (in HD video) with some stunning landscapes but primarily in stark close-up’s with the faces of the actors practically imploding on the screen. A relationship between a middle aged professor (played by the director) and his younger TV actress girlfriend (played by the director’s wife, Ebru Ceylan) is dissected and laid bare with a particular focus on the male psyche. The film begins in the summer with the two of them on a long needed holiday to the seashore, but this is a relationship clearly in trouble weighed down and sinking with a past indiscretion as the obvious culprit. But it is deeper than just that and by the time the holiday is over so are they and they return to their separate lives in Istanbul, where the man again takes up with his previous indiscretion. In a scene that was really surprising to me (as I had assumed that Turkey might have some strict censorship rules around sexual content – the Ministry of Education just censored out a picture of Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” from school textbooks), the couple engages in some very rough and revealing sex (at which time a number of folks walked out) and the viewer begins to rework their assumptions about this guy. He can’t shake his former girlfriend out of his system though and follows her to a TV shoot into the snowy east of Turkey where neither of them can really express what they want or really seem to know what they need.

The film is very slow and in truth very little happens but it has such a sense of blemished reality to it that you feel like you are almost a voyeur. It is an honest and intriguing portrait of a man who is seemingly fairly solid and mature but at his core somehow very hollow and incomplete.

Written up in Oct 2006