Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've been talking about ... Nuri Bilge Ceylan

One of the things I love best about teaching is when a student surprises me by introducing me to a film or filmmaker I hadn’t heard of. That’s what happened when Kaya dropped two DVDs on my desk before class a few weeks ago, asking if I’d heard of the director, who he loved. I hadn’t then.

I do now.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan (pronounced NEW-ri BIL-geh JAY-lin) is the Turkish-born photographer and filmmaker whose 2008 film
Üç maymun (3 Monkeys)** earned Ceylan his fourth award at the Festival de Cannes in the past six years, this time as Best Director. It, and the two films that immediately preceded it--Uzak (Distant, 2002) and Iklimler (Climates, 2006)--were each nominated for the Palm d’Or, Cannes’ top prize. (Monkeys lost to Entre le Murs (The Class), directed by Laurent Cantet. Climates lost to The Wind That Shakes the Barley, directed by Ken Loach, and Distant lost to The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski.)

The 50-year-old filmmaker is in love with his homeland, even though he is something of an ExPat raised and living in Germany. As he ended his acceptance speech for 3 Monkees last year at the Cannes Festival, he said, “I dedicate this award to my beautiful and lonely country, which I love passionately.”

That passion is etched in the stillness of his
photographs, which could be frames from his films. And vice versa. And that stillness reflects his love of snow and the cold outreaches of the Turkish countryside.

I recently screened both Distant and Climates. Blown away. For several reasons.

First, the sheer beauty of the mise en scene, particularly the locations across Turkey. His style tends toward the slow-paced, the brooding face, the long take and incredibly gorgeous deep focus shot, truly the full expression of what film critic Andre Bazin meant by

Linked to the near desolate landscape that gobble up Ceylan's characters is the fierce silence that Ceylan allows his characters, and they who allow themselves to loiter within it. Life without rush. Existence without a soundtrack. Just faces, deeply veined emotion that the audience engages and sorts through ... sorts out. How painful and pleasurable to live in eyes filled with remorse and hope, mouths filled with smoke and words too unformed, uncertain, to utter.

I am instantly drawn to Ceylan as an auteur, in François Truffaut’s sense of the term. He controls his productions, with his NBC production company. His films are made on a relatively low-budget outside the film factory, shot with family and friends (his parents, his beautiful and talented wife, Ebru).

He persists in exploring similar themes, mostly very personal.

And, he maintains an aesthetic that is so very distinct ... so very much his own style.

I'll be posting more about Ceylan in the next few days.

** To my knowledge, these are the only two Ceylan films available on DVD in Region 1 DVD; According to Ceylan’s official website for
Üç Maymun, the DVD has been released in Turkey on 30 March 2007 by Imaj, with optional subtitles in English, French and Turkish. It is a double DVD set with a separate bonus DVD having more than three hours of extra materials all with optional English and Turkish subtitles.

1 comment:

  1. Glad his style tickled your fancy! Maybe if I fail in Hollywood I can go to Turkey and be his apprentice.