The Landscape of the Unconscious

in 35th International Istanbul Film Festival

by Patrizia Pistagnesi

As always, a great director is able to understand and recreate in an original, emotional and unique aesthetic way the inner disease of his times and country. Watching the remarkable National Golden Tulip Competition selection at the 35th Istanbul Film Festival, you keep thinking of the much-awarded filmography of Nuri Bilge Ceylan. But it must be said that all these directors, men and women, young and older, show a deeply individual way of looking at their geographic and/or symbolic landscape. Generally, those fascinating, archaic, quite empty villages of their childhood, to which they feel forced to come back, are the locations of inner conflicts, more or less conscious, between roots, family, religious and social traditions, and the reality or the desire of a frustrating, lonely, foolish city life. To escape is a hard and painful experience, and “the past is never finishing… often is not yet past.” In this connection, we must mention the interesting debut of the young filmmaker Adnan Akdag, My Own Life. In a manner that reminds us of the heroic times of the Seventies experimental and underground cinema, he comes back to his village and family house at the death of his older brother, filming this unpredictable return, which forced him to leave his studies on cinema, with a little and passionate troupe, event after event, moment by moment.

The Field, Cemil Agacikoglu’s second film, is a mature and convincing reflection on the conflict between the debt to one’s original family and environment and an always traumatic growing-up, which leads men and women to face the failures and crises of any adult life, especially in our times. Agacikoglu’s camera follows in a long and oblique shot the useless return to his parent’s village of his protagonist (actor Serkan Erkan), during which he loses all his past and present certainty and references, and reveals his inner weakness, until he becomes able to understand and pay his symbolic debt of love and friendship to his lazy and dreaming younger brother.

The deepest relationship between human life and the absolute supremacy of the natural landscape is shown and narrated with a rigorous, emotional and lyrical cinematic language in Cold of Kalandar by Mustafa Kara, who won the Best Director award of the national competition jury. As in a dark fairy tale, he takes us into an extreme and pitiless world, in which a man and his family struggle not only to survive but to preserve their humanity, intelligence, feelings and dreams.

But the most impressive and successful example of the scenario we are trying to describe is Motherland, the exciting debut feature film of a young woman, Sunem Tüzen, which our jury awarded for the ability to convey universal meaning and sense through cinematic language, while depicting the human pursuit of identity and freedom. Telling of a hard, cruel, passionate conflict between a modern woman and her conservative mother, Tüzen manages to avoid the risk of sociological and/or ethnic déjà vu, developing the story in a plot that always surprises and moves. The struggle between love and hate, between the sweetness of motherhood and the dangerous loneliness of freedom, give life to all the film, with its unforgettable second act centered on a long dialogue sequence, suggestive of the Bergman touch, between the two women, resting at night in the same bed. Motherland is not a film about what is bad or good but about the several shares in which we are divided, about this relentless conflict that upsets the mother’s and daughter’s souls, and also ours. As a matter of fact, the camera is always ending up to separate the characters and the décor, assuming the hard duty of letting us know that the subject’s unity is impossible and the pursuit of identity is not an innocent journey.

Finally, we would like to cite two Turkish films in the international competition.

The genre’s rules of the noir are originally collapsing in All of a Sudden by Asli Özge, winner of the Fipresci award. More like in Dostoevskij than in the Shakespeare quoted in the exergo,  the spiraling development of the plot, the dark energy and the aggressive strength of the director finally prove another talent. Another woman.

Zeki Demirkubuz’s much anticipated Ember confirms the visual world of this exciting director, captivating and hypnotic, a metaphor of the social and psychological cage in which his characters are imprisoned: the only catharsis allowed them, as they move without hope and horizon in the dark landscape of our modern, Western-style city life.