Grand Prix - Best Film of the Year 2003
directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The Price of the Success in Big Town
by Atilla Dorsay
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.
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.
Read also Nuri Bilge Ceylan's portrait.
New Director of the Year 2003:
Reconstruction by Christoffer Boe.