Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 19, 2006


Filed under: Film,Turkey — louisproyect @ 3:05 pm


Scheduled for theatrical release this month, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates” returns once again to the preoccupations of his first two films–“Clouds of May” and “Distant”–namely the anomie of Turkish artists and intellectuals. Borrowing from Antonioni, Ceylan’s characters move through a silent and chilly world and have conversations that fail to bring them together in any genuine manner. As an objective correlative of the main characters’ mental states, “Climates” and “Distant” make heavy use of snowfall. These are obviously not easy films to warm up to but ones that satisfy on another level. As a psychological examination of Turkey’s educated petty bourgeoisie rendered in world-class cinematography, Ceylan’s films are first-rate.

“Climates” stars Ceylan himself as Isa, an art history professor in Istanbul who is in an unhappy marriage with his much younger wife Bahar, who is played by Ebru Ceylan, his real-life mate. In the opening scene, we see the two sweating uncomfortably on the beach of an Aegean Sea resort. She then wakes up from a bad dream in which Isa is covering her face with sand. This dream must anticipate what he is about to tell her, namely that he wants a separation. At first she handles the news with aplomb, but later as they are returning back to their hotel on a motor scooter, she covers his eyes with her hands and causes the bike to crash. Enraged, he tells her that if she is so anxious to die, he might as well throw her over the seacliff next to the road.

Once back in Istanbul on his own, Isa tries to reignite an affair with Serap (Nazan Kesal), the wife of an ad agency director that he has been screwing behind his back. In the most powerful scene in the film, he visits her at their apartment while the husband is in Khazakstan and proceeds to force himself on her sexually in manner that is only a hair’s width from rape. Later on, we discover that this violent act is typical of such a man who has little use for women other than as sex objects. In another scene, Isa chuckles as a fellow professor who he shares an office with recounts how he humiliated his fiancée at a restaurant. Wagging his finger in her face, he warned that he would not marry her unless she shaped up. This is the only moment in the entire film when Isa appears happy.

The climax of the film takes place in a small rustic village in Eastern Anatolia during a snowstorm. Isa has gone there to try to reconcile with Bahar. There is very little dialog in these scenes, but it has tremendous dramatic intensity conveyed through the expressions on their faces and in the foreboding but beautiful wintry backdrop. The film begins in sweltering heat and ends in driving snow–hence the title “Climates”, which is just as much about the storms that rage in the characters’ hearts.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was born in Istanbul in 1959 but grew up in Antelonia, a remote rural area not much different from the one seen in the climax of the film. After studying engineering in college, he decided to make a career in film. He is also an accomplished photographer as can be seen in the gallery on his official website at: http://www.nuribilgeceylan.com/

In an interview with the London Times, Ceylan stated (in their words) that “Climates” reflected his deeply pessimistic view of his own sex as much as an insight into his own psyche. “I think man is the weakest creature in the world, especially the educated man. They are always afraid of something.”

Whatever Ceylan’s films lack in “creature comfort”, they certainly make up for in terms of raw emotion unmediated by commercial film-making calculation. They are also the most visually striking films that one can see coming out of any film studio in the world. That they are coming out of Turkey indicates that the visual arts are alive and well there, even if the human bonds of solidarity and respect might be in short supply–especially between man and woman.


  1. Hello


    Comment by Test — March 30, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  2. Actually i dont like turk films. Example cuneyt arkin. But now i think its oke.

    Comment by Turkey — April 4, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

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