Climates

climates2.jpg
Zeitgeist Films
Nuri Bilge Ceylan/Turkey-France 2006

How many times can you say a film is beautiful in a new way? There’s no use in trying – Climates is simply beautiful. Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan proves himself as an international force of aesthetic understanding. He displays an amazing feel for frame space, movement, and especially depth of field. He is so comfortable with his shot composition that he allows the viewer to sit with his frames at full length without relying on fast cuts for fear of the spectator getting bored. One can tell he has faith in his images.

What is so intriguing about Climates is Ceylan’s ability to convey themes stylistically. He weaves images that exemplify the characters’ alienation, expressed by dark ominous skies, rumbling thunder, and snow-covered towns. Ceylan also stars as Isa, a 40-year-old academic. His wife Ebru Ceylan plays opposite him in the leading role as Bahar, a much younger art designer for a TV series. It seems apparent that the amazing acting in the film is due to the trust, familiarity and comfort that exists between the two main performers.

The film is about a couple on the outs. The two are fed up with each other. While on a vacation to a beautiful scenic beach, they decide to break up. The opening sequence has depth. Ceylan crafts amazing tight frames of Bahar’s face. We immediately encounter her in close up as she stands against a marble pillar. The sound is impeccable, as one can hear anything from the parting of lips to a fly buzzing around. The crisp sound, and the tight frame create a sharp ability to analyze Bahar’s inner thoughts through her face. The fact that the couple is literally standing in ruins – as Isa takes pictures for his thesis and Bahar candidly looks bored – implies and foreshadows the couple’s situation.

The first line of dialogue has Isa asking Bahar if she is bored. She responds no, then wanders off up the hill and out of focus, while Isa’s face stays foregrounding the whole right side of the frame. Continually the film uses framing to create a strongly layered meaning. Here the meaning is apparent – Isa is taking pictures of ruins for his work, self-absorbed, while his girlfriend walks off out of focus and out of mind for an extended period. The length of the shot essentially abstracts the image to create a kind of montage. Bahar is almost literally on Isa’s mind, but he cannot get her in focus, or rather chooses not to. Immediately after, Ceylan gives us an extended period with Bahar. As she reaches the top of the hill, she sits down and looks at Isa among the ruins – one of the first spatially breathable shots of the film. From above she stares down, and – in an extremely long take – Bahar slowly begins to cry. Not a hard sob, a slow tear burned out of an incapable part of the body; she stares into the camera as the tears fall from her face – an amazing foreshadowing for the film and an incredible piece of acting. This is only the beginning of the film. Basically, the ensuing break up gives the viewer an extended stay with the character of Isa, but the romance re-performs itself at the end of the film in order to try and explore the desires in relationships: desire for love, commitment, and finding the right person.

Starring in the lead role, having his wife play the opposite leading role, using his parents briefly, and exploring the nature of relationships give Ceylan validity, but really the film is more than that. Because the relationships portrayed here are so close in a very general sense to his life (i.e. his wife is playing his girlfriend), the result is stunning performances.

Ceylan’s accomplishment is that he is capable of shooting this film with certain aesthetic quirks. His original use of slow motion, depth of field – that of specifically pulling focus – and the snow in the second half of the movie (oh yes, the incredible snow), are all cinematic accomplishments. It is amazing that this was shot high definition. Ceylan’s art is stunning. Every shot is cared for, every color dusted, and every frame moody.

© 2006 Myles David Jewell. All rights reserved.

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