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Grand Prix - Best Film of the Year 2003

Uzak
directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

The Price of the Success in Big Town
by Atilla Dorsay

Uzak.In his new film, Nuri Bilge Ceylan goes to the big town. His heroes traditionally from the rural area come to Istanbul in search of new dreams and new perspectives of life. Once again he has the passion for capturing life in a frame, combining a natural existentialist approach with the philosophy of a wise man who has put a lot of faith in nature. His heroes are two distant cousins from the same little town. One has already been in Istanbul for a while, a photographer who, with the success of his art, has found himself a small niche amongst the bourgeoisie. He is selfish - he did not want his ex-wife to carry his child and therefore gave her all the excuses to leave him. Now he is alone and when he meets her again, although we know that he still loves her, it's only to learn that she is going to live abroad with her new husband. But she is not happy either: because her abortion has definitely taken away any hope of becoming a mother. And the most affected one is someone almost outside the story: her new man whose greatest wish is to be a father... How far can our sins go and affect the lives of people we don't even know?

In the middle of lonely nights spent alone at home, after a drink or two in an 'artists' bar', the indifferent watching of porn videos or sometimes a brief visit of a local whore, comes a distant cousin. He is a total dreamer. His dream is to find a ship on which he would travel far. But because of the economic crisis, no-one is willing to recruit a new sailor. While waiting, he turns into a solitaire hunter chasing all the nice looking girls on his way. But somehow he always falls on intellectuals who end up despising him and his desperate innocence. The older relative will eventually get bored with him and accuse him of the theft of something lost in the house and even when he finds out that he was mistaken, he won't tell him the truth, thus obliging the other to leave the house and maybe the big town. The older cousin has obviously become more and more bourgeois and has new values now. You can't change your class without paying for it. The big town is full of lonely lives and to share something is getting more and more difficult, if not impossible.

Uzak.

Ceylan films an Istanbul of dreams. Caught in the rare white of a snow storm, it is both breathtaking and menacing, gorgeous and terrible at the same time. Istanbul seen by Ceylan, both as a director and a cinematographer, becomes a magic town, with a little old street full of half-abandoned old houses, the Bosphorus turning into an eternal stream along which the lonely ones meet. And the human dramas interwoven in the big town turn into little tragedies. The rhythm of life he captures so well in his semi-documentary style does not change much. His obsession with nature smoothly moves to the second rank and big town human dramas take their place instead. He has his way of telling them, a very economical and cinematographic way and that turns him into a universal artist, a world director. The very long shot, for instance, during which we learn everything about the ex-wife, the child she lost and the new and desperate husband, is a masterpiece of modern cinema telling.

His film, as usual, is almost without music, except a very timely use of Mozart. His two main actors do a great job and the fact that one of them, his favourite actor Mehmet Emin Toprak who plays the young cousin, sadly passed away, right after the prize he picked up in the Antalya national festival, due to a tragic car accident, only increases the film's constant feeling of melancholy. Modest as he was, no-one can imagine how he would enjoy the acting prize of Cannes, as his colleague, Muzaffer Özdemir did not even bother to come there, probably because he did not have the smallest expectation of such a prize. A loss very difficult to replace for Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose few main actors are much more than actors, but true friends.

Atilla Dorsay
© FIPRESCI 2003

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Read also Nuri Bilge Ceylan's portrait.

New Director of the Year 2003:
Reconstruction by Christoffer Boe.

 

 

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