Review: Climates (Iklimler)
(Turkey 2006, dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
by Paul Murphy
Itís possible to think of Turkish directorís latest film Climates as something that really typifies all the worst aspects of art house cinema; slow-moving, torpid, little or no action, movement or point.
Bahar (Nuri Bilge Ceylanís art documentary maker) is self-referentially filming at an ancient Greek temple in Turkey (for Turkey has more of such sites than either Italy or Greece, escaped the attentions of artefact thieves for much longer). He is inattentive to his wife, Isa (Ebru Ceylanís university professor), who seems terminally bored even though she states otherwise. The film builds up character through a series of close ups, seems to be an amalgam of close-ups stitched into a larger whole. The setting is striking. The presence of the ancient past seems to underpin the difference between Baharís historical fascinations, his younger wifeís desire for fun.
The next scene is set on the beach. The film could easily be called Landscapes rather than Climates, both landscape and climate echo changes in the fortunes of the relationship as it literally drifts from hot to cold. On the way back from the beach Isa plays a childish trick, momentarily blinding Bahar on their motorbike which skids out of control. He feigns to throw her off the cliff. Isa is bored, willing to transmit the most robust signal to her husband of her unhappiness about the direction of their relationship However, these signals are ignored.
The rest of the film meanders towards its conclusion, accompanied by some stunningly effective shots of the Turkish landscape, equally intriguing close-ups of Isa who is at once an object of desire for Bahar and, seemingly, for Ceylan. Ceylan clearly has a painterly eye, transmitting his love of the Turkish landscape, the people who occupy it. Perhaps he brings back to art cinema a sense of innocence that it once enjoyed. It seems apt to mention the names Antonioni or Visconti without tottering into pretentiousness. In perhaps the most striking scene Bahar rapes Isa, windmilling arms and legs, a completely visceral, emotive scene, then the telephone rings. The tension the scene builds up is undermined by this reminder of post-modernity, albeit in a Turkish setting.
Climates is a worthwhile, yet incomplete film. Social/sexual relationships are invigorated by the tensions of a Muslim country that straddles both east and west, a country that still hasnít caught up with modernity, is still officially outside the European Union, a status that can only be underlined by the recent assassination of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian who dared to talk openly about the Armenian Ďgenocideí of 1915. It is a country where masculinity is central, women being a necessary inconvenience. Climates backs up this sense of Turkey as a backwater struggling to gain the status of modernity against a backdrop of ancient sites/habits/conventions, although these are also prevalent across the Mediterranean.Climates demonstrates that cinema can still be art but the many elements of pretentiousness, signs that seem to be saying to the audience Ďthis is artí, need to be expunged, backgrounding the prevalent self-referentiality, increasing attention to modes of irony, of directorial distanciation from source material. But itís good to see that a non-European country can still invigorate what many will see as the traditions of European art cinema.
Paul Murphy saw Climates at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton.