Friday, 27 January 2012

#24 Turkey — Climates (2006)

Why I chose this: I discovered Ceylan around the same time I saw my first Bela Tarr film. Since then, he has been one of my favourite modern directors. I got Climates on DVD as a Birthday present, but never got round to watching it. This series is turning into a great way to watch DVDs I've had for too long.

Climates stands as another testament to Ceylan's painfully astute understanding of relationship breakdowns. Sitting between the phenomenal Uzak's exploration of a damaged brotherly connection and Three Monkey's examination of a family unit under siege, Climates studies a man-woman (it's not revealed if they are married, unless there was an obvious wedding ring I missed) relationship in its most sorry state.

Ceylan is often lumped into the Contemporary Contemplative Cinema "movement". Although he shares a common approach with a few of his peers — most notably Andrei Zvyagintsev — he has much more in common with the works of Michaelangelo Antonioni. His work demonstrates a profound knowledge of modern society's effects on human relationships, which makes his films very easy to connect with, if you can get past the slow pace.

Ceylan's choice to cast himself and his wife as the main characters is both brave and thought-provoking. How autobiographical is this film? The strength and believability of both performances gives saddening clues.

Although the cinematography isn't quite as stunning as Uzak, it is used as a storytelling device more effectively. It goes together with the mise en scene to reinforce the emotions and connections present in the shot. Physical space and actor positioning is used to show emotional distance between characters and depth-of-field is altered to show disassociation with a character's surroundings.

Music is used sparingly and is all connected to the diegesis in clever ways (cf The Big Lebowski). It sometimes borders on manipulative depressiveness, but never quite crosses the boundary and so remains sincere. However, the weather changing to fit the mood of the scenes sometimes feels fake and obvious, but this doesn't heavily detract from the experience.

The characters feel very real and well developed, and the presentation is painfully honest, but I still didn't find the film to be as great as Uzak or Three Monkeys. Perhaps the main character's boorish insensitivity prevented me from properly connecting with him, or his wife's childish aloofness from understanding the original attraction.

I do have a few gripes, but in general, Climates is a great, if depressing, view of the disintegration of love and how it still leaves pieces of itself behind. Perhaps not necessary viewing, but definitely worth a watch for fans of Ceylan's other work or of slow, humanist cinema in general.

Also recommended from Turkey:
Other films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak, Three Monkeys)
Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven, Head-On)

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