THE WILD PEAR TREE

Star­ring Dogu Demirkol. In Turk­ish, with English sub­ti­tles. Rated PG

The Georgia Straight - - Movies - by Ken Eis­ner

IN FILMS like Dis­tant and Win­ter Sleep, Turk­ish writer-di­rec­tor Nuri Bilge Cey­lan showed his in­stinct for fer­ret­ing out the hu­mour and the sad­ness in strained re­la­tion­ships set against un­for­giv­ing land­scapes. He pushes this even fur­ther in The Wild Pear Tree. And, at more than three hours and tak­ing place over sev­eral years, it feels more like a clas­sic novel than a movie, even of the art-house va­ri­ety.

If this saga of a young man’s search for mean­ing feels like a lit­er­ary throw­back, modern chaos keeps in­trud­ing on the rever­ies of Si­nan Karasu (Dogu Demirkol), a slouchy 20-some­thing who has just writ­ten his first book and can’t get it pub­lished. He’s fin­ished his teacher train­ing but wor­ries about be­ing posted in Turkey’s ru­ral re­gions. (Peo­ple men­tion “go­ing east” the way Ger­mans once talked about be­ing sent to the Rus­sian front.)

The young­ster is in un­com­fort­able thrall to his fa­ther (Mu­rat Cem­cir), him­self once a re­spected ed­u­ca­tor in the port town of Çanakkale, where he (and the di­rec­tor) grew up. Now he’s a lo­cal joke, thanks to gam­bling debts and too much time spent at his own fa­ther’s crum­bling farm. For years, Dad’s been dig­ging a well that never yields wa­ter—a metaphor for all striv­ing here, es­pe­cially the young man’s at­tempts to find ex­pres­sion through the an­ti­quated mode of books.

The film’s episodic struc­ture pri­mar­ily con­sists of long, highly de­tailed con­ver­sa­tions between two or three peo­ple. The elu­sive na­ture of art, strug­gles against con­form­ity, and the ul­ti­mate mean­ing (if any) of re­li­gion are among the top­ics ar­gued about. Si­nan’s knowl­edge of women is no­tably child­like, and he man­ages to in­sult peo­ple he asks for help. If writ­ing doesn’t work out, he ad­mits, he could just join the riot po­lice, like one of his col­lege friends who couldn’t find a job.

Cey­lan sets this chat­ter against ever-shift­ing back­grounds in dif­fer­ently hued sea­sons; we are aware of the beauty and depre­da­tions of the char­ac­ters’ sur­round­ings, but they are not. Some im­ages are un­for­get­table, as when Si­nan pokes his head out of the side panel of a gi­gan­tic Tro­jan horse—built for a Brad Pitt movie shot in the area, but now kept as a tourist at­trac­tion near sites of sev­eral fa­mous bat­tles.

The di­rec­tor’s ap­proach is largely aus­tere, though, with re­peated snip­pets from Bach’s Pas­sacaglia very oc­ca­sion­ally sweet­en­ing the scenes. This sug­gests in­flu­ences from Pa­solini, who de­pended on Bach, and Bergman, who counted on si­lence. But for view­ers with the pa­tience to hear him out, Cey­lan has a voice like no other.

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