Award winning Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest instalment, The Wild Pear Tree, is not so much a film as a kind of essay… a lyrical, romantic series of conversations and flow of ideas, musings and discoveries, spaciously dispersed over the course of its three-hour running time. True to form, the Winter Sleep director tackles life’s deepest mysteries in this intimate study of humanity, family, destiny, and what ‘home’ really means to us. We accompany Sinan on his search for inspiration and truth in this incredibly intimate and moving study of rural life in modern Turkey.
The film’s main character is an ambitious aspiring writer who has recently graduated from college. He returns to his hometown to face the many possibilities of his future; will he gain sponsorship and become a published author? Will he pass his teacher exam and end up in the same profession as his father? Or will his obligation to military service pull him in a different direction? He grows resentful of this place where he was raised, reminded of all the limitations and irritations that bothered him before.
Sinan’s main source of stress is his father, Idris (Murat Cemcir), a loveable man, but who is plagued with a serious gambling problem that puts incredible strain upon his family. Sinan can’t go anywhere without being approached by someone complaining of an unpaid debt that Idris owes. Cemcir admirably adopts the persona of the loveable rogue, more trouble than good, but whose charisma makes us feel drawn to him. Sinan (Dogu Demirkol) is not a typical ‘hero’, either. He’s irritable, sometimes cynical, and has a hint of arrogance that gets on the nerves of most of the people he comes into contact with. He has an air of superiority about him, clearly rattled by these people who do not recognise his literary genius. That said, there is a vulnerable and earnest side to him, and his genuine desire to understand everything inspires in us a certain empathy. The immaculate acting and brilliant writing makes it far easier for us to forgive the main characters of their imperfections.
There is a particularly memorable scene in a bookshop, in which Sinan confronts a famous writer, and begins making thinly veiled digs at him, until finally it irritates the writer so much that he flies into a rage, screaming his head off at a smirking Sinan. These moments of obnoxiousness are counteracted by his more tender exchanges, such as when he runs into an old flame of his, the exquisite Hatice. The scene is so breath-taking and so heartfelt, that it sometimes feels as though it is teetering on the edge of fantasy.
Ceylan has a knack for opening up doorways into conversations that are far more profound than the everyday surroundings might suggest. When, for example, Sinan bumps into two old friends picking fruit from a tree, they are before long delving into theories of religion and morality. While the extensive running time and lack of typically ‘dramatic’ events may dissuade some people, with patience and willingness to really sit with these characters, who are predominantly conversing as opposed to anything else, there is a deep well of beauty there to be unlocked.
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Drama, World Cinema | Turkey, 2018 | 12 | Subtitles | DVD, Blu-Ray | 11th March 2019 (UK) | New Wave Films | Dir.Nuri Bilge Ceylan |Dogu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Hazar Ergüçlü