Dealing with Everyday Problems and Art

in 33rd Istanbul International Film Festival

by Murat Emir Eren

It is known to all: The International Golden Tulip Competition in the Istanbul Film Festival is only open to fiction, documentary, or animated films on arts (literature, theatre, music, dance, cinema, plastic arts) or literary adaptations. This condition of participation leads us into the universe of great artists such as Violette Leduc and Nick Cave. Not only these special, larger-than-life personalities from the real world, but the competition has films on fictional artists too. And watching them all makes you realize that it is much more cinematic when a director considers an object abstractly (in this manner, that’s an artist). To make this abstraction work, directors start to ask crucial questions: How can an artist bear this horrible life? How can they make a stand? Is art like steel armor against life for them? Is it a way to fight against their traumas? The competition had a few films that tried to answer these questions.

For instance French writer Violette Leduc’s painful story Violette is a biopic that starts by depicting the relationship between Leduc and writer Maurice Sachs. In the beginning, the director chooses to follow his character through the absolute chaos of war reflecting the pure, nude emotions of Leduc. As a biopic, in the early scenes the film becomes almost surreal and is visually very strong. But that’s the only fabulous part of whole movie. When Violette continues with boring historical facts, you suddenly lose interest, and the film becomes another ordinary biopic like the ones you can see on TV (despite its bravery in reflecting the relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Violette Leduc). Maybe Violette should have continued with the writing motivation from Leduc; there was no need for the flash-forwards that interrupt the movie’s rhythm, and no need for extensive historical explanations.

As a film about a fictional artist, Frank has something new to say about dealing with life as an artist! In the opening scene, Frank introduces us the one of its main characters, Jon, a talentless guy (or you could describe him as a ‘limited talent’). He refuses to get used to the idea of having a limited talent for art at all! He doesn’t accept his ‘normal’ personality! And, by coincidence, Jon joins a rock band as the front man named Frank! Frank is a real mystery for Jon. He wears a balloon-like human face-mask all the time, and his music style is as weird as his mask is! After dozens of weird and funny moments shared, Jon discovers that he’s not really as talented as he thinks, and a real talent is just like a wild, angry beast! You can’t buy it, you can’t train it, and you can’t keep it away from danger. If you do, this beast destroys itself. Because staying wild and innocent is the way to keep going for that beast. Director Lenny Abrahamson shows the huge contrast between Jon and Frank with a classy sense of humor. But I couldn’t say the same thing for the last 40 minutes of the movie. In this part of the film, the story gets serious and unnecessarily emotional. Frank gives away its great humor, and makes the same mistake as Violette: leaving marvelous and original moments behind, heading an ordinary ending.

Golden Tulip Winner and Norwegian film Blind also tells a story about dealing with everyday life through making art. This complex, humorous, and sort of surrealist drama follows a fictional woman writer who retreats to the safety of her home, having recently lost her sight. Blind is actually a good example for not minding a linear storyline in a story of an artist! If you have the option to focus on the artist’s real motivation for art, why bother to be strictly accurate about dates, events, or historical details? That’s what the award winning director Eskil Vogt does in Blind. He lets us enter the main character’s mind and tries to show us her blindness physically and psychologically. He also builds a film around one theme by describing it over and over again with different examples. For instance, Einar the pornography addict becomes blind from pornographic images. At some point, those porn videos or fetish objects do not help him reach satisfaction at all. This is a kind of blindness against nudity, and watching porn only makes him hungrier in the end. It’s same for Ingrid the blind writer. She is blinded by her fear of losing her husband. For Ingrid, writing is a way to fight this fear. Blind never takes itself seriously, never makes the same mistakes Frank or Violette do; from the beginning until the end Blind becomes more interesting, surreal, and messy in a good way. From time to time, and at the end, the director can’t handle the mess that he created. That’s the real problem with Blind.

FIPRESCI Award winner 20.000 Days on Earth looks like a documentary about Nick Cave. But actually it’s not. 20.000 Days on Earth is not an ordinary “rock star documentary”. Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard also find a different way to describe an artist, and ask this question themselves: what makes us who we are? After that, they use the coolest guy on the planet to find an appropriate answer to this question. Sometimes 20.000 Days on Earth becomes a “talking heads” documentary, sometimes it behaves like it’s a feature movie or even a concert movie. But the directors never lose their way in reaching the answer to the main question. The film examines the artistic process of Nick Cave’s songs, and takes a look at the relationship between the songs and Cave’s memories. In addition, 20.000 DOE shows its audience how an ordinary person can transform his personality through the power of creativity. That’s why this project is not only about Nick Cave, it’s also about all of us: it’s about getting hurt by life and not minding. This is about not losing the faith in becoming someone we always wanted to be.

Edited by Tara Judah