"Times and Winds": Searching for a New Cinema Language By Ahmed Hassouna

in 25th Istanbul International Film Festival

by Ahmed Hassouna

Urban family ties and traditional values are important issues that are constantly tackled by the Turkish cinema. Times and Winds (Bes Vakit) by Reha Erdem is another film that deals with this issue, but goes beyond the traditional way on the subtext and style level.

The film is about three children, Omer, Yakoub, and Yildize, who all live in a small village surrounded by the mountains. Each child is exposed to a painful experience that leaves a strong emotional and psychological mark on each of them and makes them want to escape reality. Omer hates his father for mistreating him and for favoring his younger brother, Ali, over him. He hates his father to such an extent that he wants to kill him. Yakoub is a day-dreamer who loves his teacher and wants to marry her. He feels sorry for the father because his grandfather treats him badly and shows preference to his other son; however he turns against his father when he sees him watching the teacher through the window. Yildize, the beloved daughter of her father, gets hurt when she sees her father having sex with her mother.

There are many parallel themes in the film. Children look for affection from their family and are afraid that someone may win this affection. As an example, Yakoub is afraid that his mother would care more for the coming child than she cares about him. Yildize is threatened by her mother’s hatred because she accidentally dropped her brother. Sin is another theme. The son wants to kill his father, Yakoub’s father watches the teacher, and the shepherd boy has been beaten harshly by his boss because of eating fruit from a tree that is on someone else’s property. The themes also reflect a lot of universal religious customs and morals such as the forbidden tree, the sacrifice, redemption etc…

The film looks at the family as an organic institution which creates children who will end up resembling their fathers, as a woman states in the film. The film’s narrative is freed from the Hollywood storyline style as well as the melodramatic Turkish type, offering us a poetic film that has it own unique temporal narrative. As the Turkish title of the film means five times referring to the call to prayers in the Muslim world, the film is divided into five parts each representing the time where village people would recognize it. The temporal narrative in the film doesn’t recognize days. It blurs the days so one is unable to distinguish between them. The narrative is disrupted by stunning visual images of the children lying in the fields and over the mountain as if they are dead, to escape the harsh life with their families and to be part of peaceful nature.

The director uses static shots most of the time combined with traveling shots following the children from behind. There is a great balance between identifying shots for the characters and long shots to show the characters in the beautiful but nonetheless harsh surroundings. The editing creates a hypnotic effect, dramatized by powerful Turkish music which has the quality of classical music in the west. The sound of the trembling trees and the wind affects the important dark events to come. The shadows of trembling leaves over Omer’s back at the beginning of the film reminds me with the visual/sound effects of Carl Dreyer’s film Day of Wrath.

Reha Erdem succeeded in finding a new cinema language for his fourth feature film derived from his own local culture, and at the same time universal, which made him win the Best National Film award given by the FIPRESCI jury.