There are times when one
finds a 'critically acclaimed' art-house movie does not live up to the hype. Something similar happened in the case of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's 'Distant'.
Turkish film Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan is not new to cine-goers. His 'Climates' is one of the greatest achievements in world cinema. It's a film where two lovers cannot understand each other, where even after being close to each other (physically) they are emotionally distant. They are so alienated from their surroundings that these same surroundings tend to get more dramatic than the characters' presence! 'Climates' could be looked upon as why relations, most of the time, fail. 'Distant' covers similar themes. The story is different but the emotions are, more or less, the same.
'Distant' by Turkish film Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan tells the story of an estranged, 40-year-old, Istanbul based photographer named Muhmut who is left extremely disturbed after his wife leaves him. One (fine) day, his cousin from the simpleton village life, Yusuf, comes to stay with him for a matter of few days until he doesn't get a job. What then follows is a journey into the lonely livelihoods of the two individuals who share the same apartment but are still emotionally 'distant'. In their neighbourhood, there lives a beautiful young woman, played by Ceylan's wife, whose presence never goes unnoticed. Yusuf secretly falls for her and tries to win her but fails. Viewers witness him following many women in the film, in numerous slow-burning scenes where the ambient sounds have dominance, but he fails and ends up making the impression that he's a pervert. In case of Muhmut, he frequently sleeps with women, one hardly ever sees him pick up the phone (Even when it's from his Mother) and his huge apartment is a perfect reflection of his empty existence. While the story materializes on celluloid, the snow-fall in the city gives the film a more depressing and bleak look.
There are so many elements to observe in this film that it makes the film worthy of long, thought-provoking discussions. It's amazing how Ceylan has engineered every mannerism of the characters and even their emotional response to the situation. This film will indeed be a worth-while experience for many as the glacial pace, long shots, ambient sounds beautiful cinematography grow on the audience. And the funniest thing is that the characters have their backs faced to the camera most of the times so it is hard to see their emotions!
Although, having experience of Ceylan's work, this viewer admires his honest hard work that has resulted in a parabolic work of art showcasing one of the serious problems of modern lives: Lack of communication and no understanding of each other's feelings. And it's important to note that the film also never goes on the extreme side like "Hey guys, we shall make this art-film as depressing as we can by showing snow everywhere and not a single smile!!" or something like that. This film also shows the character's attempt at reconciliation but they, undoubtedly, fail. And sadly, what Chaplin in 'The Great Dictator' said has come true: "We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little."
Vol. 46, No. 26, Jan 5 -11, 2014
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