Monday, November 3, 2014

Uzak (Distant) (2002)

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Writer:    Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Cast:       Muzaffer Ozdemir, Emin Toprak
Language: Turkish

After his wife leaves him, a photographer has an existential crisis and tries to cope with his cousin's visit, who comes to Istanbul in search for a job.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan has cited Michelangelo Antonioni as one of his biggest influences and it is pretty much evident in his films. He recently won Palme d'Or for his most recent release, Winter Sleep, and I I had only seen the magnificent 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' from his filmography before this. Whilst OPaTiA was set in rural Turkey, Uzak is set in Istanbul where two characters-one veteran migrant from a village and a recent migrant are contrasted even though both of them are going through alienation. The former, Mahmut, is an intellectual photographer while the latter, Yusuf, is uneducated and unsophisticated. Both of them are not capable of engaging in a healthy romantic relationship and are summed up in an earlier scene in the film- Mahmut is watching Tarkovsky's Stalker on TV and Yusuf gets bored and leaves for bed. As soon as he goes, Mahumt switches to watch a porn film, not that there is anything with it. The story of the film is told visually as we go through Istanbul's winter season (I didn't know that it snowed in Istanbul). 

Having unwanted guests who are not at all compatible with you and invade your privacy is something that we have all faced some point of time. That arc is very well captured in the film with the initial accomodative stance moving towards, annoyance and finally resentment. Films ends with Yusuf leaving without notice and Mahmut contemplating by staring at a ship that has sailed. It is much more accessible film than OPaTiA and is something we, in the developing world, can relate to very well. It is really a pleasure to watch a contemplative film that tells its story through relatively small things that we encounter in life.

Film might not be as visually ambitious as OPaTiA was but it is still fantastic to watch. Emin Toprak, who played Yusuf, died tragically in a car crash at the age of 28 immediately after the filming was completed.

Rating: 5/5