Thursday, December 7, 2006

Distant/Uzak - Nuri Bilge Ceylon (2002)

Well, I finally saw this film tonight! I would definitely recommend it to folks who can slow down to be absorbed by this film's quiet rhythm. There is a lot of silence in this film, a lot of still cameras watching the two main characters do a lot of nothing. There is NOT a lot of story, there is not a lot of character growth. But, the film is beautifully shot and true-to-life in its portrayal of a middle-aged photographer mired in his pride and his habits, who grows weary of a younger cousin who comes to stay with him in the city while finding work. Bleak stuff, but the audience is able to stay distant from the characters so that the effect is not "Wow, this is a depressing film." It's is just a quiet film - these characters are like people we know, people we probably have been like at times, but hope that we are currently not like.

There is a strong presence of natural sound in this film - the chimes on the balcony of the photographer's apartment, the jazzy mood music of the bar that the photographer frequents, the chatter of lovers playing in the park. This natural aura helps to draw the viewer into the flow of the film. Funny how we identify with the poetry of Ceylon, but we do not identify with the characters, and how this is all a good thing in the end. I guess usually one of the main gripes that we have about films we don't like is that we don't like the characters. But I guess that's not what Ceylon is going for anyway.

The visuals are striking, particularly the scenes in the snow. While looking for work down at the port, the cousin walks by a beached tanker lying on its side in the snow. We understand that it is probably an omen that the cousin is not going to find work! And an omen that the photographer and his cousin are going to come into conflict. It is an inevitable conflict for two people who are selfish and introverted. Some of the visuals seem a tad contrived, like the birds flying dramatically down into the city square in which the photographer is finding subjects to photograph.

At any rate, worth seeing. Ceylon is a filmmaker to watch.

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