Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan • Wri: Akin Aksu, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan • Pro: Zeynep Ozbatur, Atakan, Muzzafer Yildirim • DOP: Gokhan Tiryaki • Ed: Nuri Bilge Ceylan • Des: Meral Aktan • CAST: Aydin Dogu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Bennu Yildrimlar, Hazar Erguclu.
Recent college graduate, Sinan (Demirkol), returns to his hometown as he ponders what next to do with his life. Upon returning he begins to realise the extent of his father’s gambling problems and of the debts he has accrued around town. Sinan also sets to work on an ambitious, personal novel about his hometown.
Distinguished Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns to our screens with this characteristically thoughtful and intelligent drama. The picture’s length – 188 minutes – is daunting, particularly for a film as dialogue-based as this. Patient viewers will be rewarded, however, by a film infused with a striking sense of melancholy and insightful ruminations on such things as family, human relationships, memory, art and mortality.
At the film’s centre are two wonderfully drawn performances. Demirkol as the cynical, smart, angry Sinan, a young man with lofty ideas and no little ambition. Cemcil, as his gambling-addicted father, Idris, essays a character that is, in a lot of ways, but never completely, tragic. His gambling issues are obviously a terrible strain on his family – conversations between Sinan and his mother, Asuman (Yildrimalar) – illustrate their opposing and ever-shifting considerations of Idris’ addiction.
When the electricity starts being cut-off, things hit a breaking point. Idris, however, maintains a humanity and a playful, child-like approach to life. He never loses one’s sympathies, even when he does wrong, such as stealing from Sinan. The relationship between Sinan and Idris, while strained, is always ingrained with affection. Sinan constantly vents to others around him about his father, but is never capable of confronting him himself, in fact he nearly always tries to help him.
No matter how fraught matters become in the film, every character maintains the potential for kindness. Ceylan also generally eschews clichés associated with films about alienated people returning to their past. A kiss Sinan shares with an old school-crush, Hatice (Erguclu), is never developed afterwards, as it would be in other films. We’re never given any indication as to whether Sinan’s tome is of any quality or how closely it resembles the snapshots presented in the film.
The film often veers off into tangents to explore other ideas that layer themselves into the central father-son story. One particular highlight is a humourous scene which sees Sinan approach a local, successful author in a book-shop. He moves from initial reverence to outright mockery in the space of their conversation.
Sinan is often arrogant and provocative. Another scene sees him needlessly goad his friend into hitting him. While these characteristics might be unpalatable, this is film that constantly strives to show us the complexity in human nature. Bilge Ceylan luxuriates in his duration to create what feel like utterly real characters and situations.
This is a quiet, often beautiful and powerful film that resonates with the viewer long after the credits roll.