Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Emin Ceylan, Fatma Ceylan, Turgut Toprak, Muzaffer Özdemir, Emin Toprak
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
The highly acclaimed, award-winning Turkish film Distant is a deeply compassionate and frequently amusing study of quiet desperation, prompting many critics to favorably compare writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's subtly h... more »
Subtle and resonant
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 05/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In an interview included on this DVD, Distant's director, Nuri Ceylan, talks about making the film and about his perspective on filmmaking, including his influences (largely Chekovian). He speaks in excellent English which is a measure of his keen intelligence and versatility. Also included on the disk is Ceylan's brilliant short wordless black and white film Koza (Cocoon) which is almost in itself worth the price of the DVD.
Distant's leads are two men--a recently divorced photographer, Mahmut, who's a city dweller (Istanbul) and his distant relative Yusuf who's from the country. Each man has a reason to feel dissociated from society. Mahmut's recent divorce has left him emotionally isolated, hollow--he meets with his ex-wife and the viewer can see the regret of his splitting up with her all over his face without him having to say anything explicitly. He spends an inordinate amount of time watching TV or movies on TV, including porn, but often does this late at night, using the glare of the screen as a mesmerizing soporific.
Yusuf has lost his factory job and has come to Istanbul hoping for a better life. Instead what he finds is an economy as bad as where he came from. Unable to find work, he spends his daylight hours semi-stalking women, but never initiating any contact. He's withdrawn, afraid, isolated.
The subtle intercutting of the lives of the two men is skillfully handled and when they are together--Mahmut has agreed to put up Yusuf in his home--it's not hard to tell that what Mahmut really resents more than anything else is another person who does nothing at all to assuage his own isolation but instead, by his mere presence alone, reinforces it.
Ceylan is so skilled at this subtle portrayal that it might be easy to feel bored with some of the film, particularly the stretches when Mahmut watches TV. But because there is a palpable undercurrent of unease directly related to the aloneness both men experience, the film silently and slowly grows in momentum, building up this feeling until at the end we understand these characters more than we thought we would at the beginning--or even the middle of the film.
Winner of several prizes at international film festivals, including Cannes, Distant cannot be said to be "gripping", but is without question the work of a truly talented filmmaker who is more than aware of the emotional nuances of human behavior.
Patience-demanding art film
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 03/27/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
More mood piece than actual drama, the appropriately titled "Distant" is an emotionally detached Turkish film that brings new meaning to the term "minimalist storytelling." What little story it does tell involves an unemployed man from the provinces who comes to Istanbul in search of a job. While there, he stays with his cousin, a divorced professional photographer, who prefers to lead a life of drab solitude rather than interrelate with his fellow man. Naturally, having this rube from the country suddenly show up on his doorstep does not sit well with the life and style of this virtual hermit.
Since this is, essentially, a film about a lack of communication, it is understandable that very little of the screen time is devoted to characters interacting with one another. Instead, long stretches of the movie are taken up in showing us characters wandering through the stark snow-covered landscapes of wintry Istanbul or sitting in dreary rooms either alone or with other people who are equally cut off from those around them. "Distant" has much of the feel of an Antonioni film, in that the beautifully composed and photographed background comes to predominate over the people in the foreground, a visual correlative to mankind's ennui, alienation and angst. As a director, Nuri Bilge Ceylon (who also wrote the film) uses the camera almost as an artist does his canvas, painting icily beautiful pictures of the world around him. Ceylan's unhurried, deliberate pacing becomes strangely hypnotic as he dwells on one extraordinary image after another. Most of the film is spent concentrating on the mundane, day-to-day activities of these two passive, largely nonverbal individuals. The film may drive some people mad with its lack of drama and action, but those able to appreciate its almost Zen-like rhythm and mood will find the movie intriguing. There's an extraordinarily surreal shot of a docked tanker listing precariously towards port that is alone worth the price of admission (or rental fee).
For some, "Distant" may be little more than an art film with a capital "A," but those with the patience to go beyond the obvious will relish its uniqueness."
Poignancy in Retrospect
Suzanne | Oklahoma City, OK United States | 11/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You will find fewer more appropriately titled films than "Distant". Opening with a snow-covered landscape with a city in the background, we witness through a stationary camera a small figure walking towards us. The figure is dwarfed by the rest of the mis-en-scene, and this distance seems to directly reflect the title itself. For those who find the opening shot (which takes minutes to unfold) too laborious to sit through, I recommend not even trying with the rest of the film. Containing very little dialogue and no cause-and-effect plot, Distant is a simple portrait of the titular distance between individuals and society, individuals and others, brothers, and, ultimately oneself. As Amazon and others have done a good job at offering a plot synopsis, I'll skip that.
Distant unfolds less like a fictional narrative and more like life captured through a camera. I would call Ceylan's style "neo-realist voyeurism". Ceylan seems to subscribe to the theory of making films as true to life as possible, and even at its most beautiful, the director's influence of the affairs is rarely felt. True to this style, the film moves at life's pace. By "life's pace" I mean there are no quick edits allowing viewers to jump to the most relevant bits. Ceylan often stays focused on seemingly inconsequential scenes for a while. These long stretches of quiet are underscored with a "palpable current of unease" as one reviewer sharply noted. In the case of Mahmut watching TV, the length allows the viewer to pause and realize some inherent irony and absurdity in watching someone watching - or in living vicariously through someone doing the same. Others, such as Yusuf standing silently in a hall with an attractive young woman (one much like those whom he follows around the streets of Istanbul) highlights the theme of the difficulty in making first contact.
"Stark beauty" is a phrase you would hear used to describe this film, and I'm hard pressed to find a better one. Scenes of these characters wandering around Istanbul in winter are surprisingly gorgeous. But this isn't empty prettiness, as the actions of the characters in these scenes, and even the cold itself seems to reflect the central themes superbly. Beyond these chilling winter wonderland visions are others that are more of the surrealistic vein. The overturned tanker in the harbor has been mentioned. This shot is so shocking that one will be initially confused as to exactly what you're looking at. In a film about the normal and every day, this capturing of the completely abnormal and fantastic is a visceral punch. Another favorite scene is Mahmut's dream. This highlights a quality of this minimalistic style; despite that almost nothing happens (save for one small exception) Ceylan is able to extract from this a reaction due to how abstract it is from the normalcy around it.
Distant also contains some rather funny moments that closely resembles elements of our own lives. Not the least of which is the running motif of trying to catch a mouse with sticky paper - which includes a wonderful piece of dialogue regarding one particular failure. Distant is slightly deceptive as it almost makes you believe this will be a comedy. These hopes are dashed as it ends on a note of devastatingly quiet, solitary contemplation. The final scene was thoroughly moving in its subtle, emotive power, and is perhaps the only scene where Ceylon's influence as an artist can be felt. When juxtaposed next to the opening scene, I think the two make a very poignant artistic statement. Distant isn't just a film of mere moments, however. The whole it creates is a nuanced and fully realized slice-of-life portrait of two troubled souls in Istanbul: One man trying to find meaning and direction in his life after a crippling divorce, one man trying to start a life with little talent and less ambition, and the relationship of these two brothers during all this. These relationships and themes are universal enough to allow everyone to connect in some way. As one reviewer said, Ceylan has an uncanny grasp on the nuances of people and relationships, and there are countless examples of terrific, wordless character and relationship development within Distant that might not register initially with the viewer.
Distant is a film that likely won't hit you immediately - as it is as nuanced and subtle a film as you'll ever see. But I do agree with Roger Ebert who asked "How is it that the same movie can seem tedious on first viewing and absorbing on the second?" One answer is that during your first viewing you will patiently wait for something (an event) to happen. Once you realize that nothing will, you are free to go back and let yourself be absorbed in the lives of these characters and the beautiful mosaic Ceylan paints. Long after my initial viewing I find that scenes and moments from Distant replay in my mind less like those from a film, and more vividly like those from memory. And I think that speaks volumes of the enduring power of many "boring art films" such as this.
Great Turkish art movie.
Francisco Yanez Calvino | Santiago de Compostela, GALIZA, Spain. | 02/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the most interesting new film makers in the world and, in my opinion, the best one in Turkey. This film I really think is his best as you can see for the numerous awards it has.
First of all I have to mention this is author cinema, an European-style film that some times could be misunderstood by those who are thinking about commercial cinema or that kind of minor and nasty products, like I've read in some reviews. This is quite poetic cinema, very close in style to Angelopoulos' one and with some links with Kieslowski, Tarkovsky and many other film makers that took cinema into a new level, much more understood like and art than like another industry for empty minds.
The time is slow, of course, like many of our lives are so many times, why it not should be this way? Ceylan really follow Tarkovsky's concept of `sculpting the time', the one Angelopoulos follows too when he said Tonino Guerra he preferred to drink a coffee slow, very slow, in order to not just drinking but tasting. If you don't like the kind cinema of those masters it will be difficult you enjoy this film, even it's not so complex like Tarkovsky's works or Angelopoulos' `Ulisses gaze'.
From the technical point of view, the film is wonderful, with a great quality of photography, very well recorded sound of the different situations (sea, coffees, mountains... you have to think this films don't have the typical original soundtrack; it works with another kind of thinking about the sound), great camera work, a very well prepared script to represent the lives of the main characters, good film edition...
As you can read the synopsis in this same page, I will not go over it again, just saying that it's a glance, an analysis of a mind in an existential crisis period on the 40s, a crisis because of the enormous solitude he feel in his life, in his apartment, even when his cousin comes to live with him, a moment in which it's confronted the life of a man who works in an intellectual field (Mahmut, the main character, that is a photographer) with an intellectual background seen in his house and his order, with the presence of Yusuf, a person from the village, not interested at all in art, culture, politics or any kind of abstract thinking. Of course, Mahmut is a man and he needs too woman's presence, like we watch on the film in a very realistic way that can jump in the same scene from watching Tarkovsky's `Stalker' on DVD to a pornographic film... that's life, no doubt. The presence of Tarkovsky is continuous in Mahmut's life as the aspiration of becoming a great artist. We listen him discussing with his friends, one of whom ask Mahmut for his forgotten desires of becoming a new Tarkovsky, so a man of deep art, and three times we have his films on the film, the first one when he is watching `Stalker' with his cousin, who leaves the room because he is boring of that film (it happens to me sometimes too), another time when the music of `Andrei Rublev' sounds when Mahmut is in the library and the third time when he is watching `Mirror' in his bed. That's clearly the reference of his life in the transcendental and artistic field and Mahmut seems to be lost about it, I think because of his solitude, much more terrible and suffered when his ex leaves the country with her new couple, a moment in which Mahmut has his last opportunity he knows he is missing, this puts he off and with a great sense of being lost for life.
It's a film in which many of the most important things are not told in words but using the other languages cinema has, like image, sound, camera shots, film edition... Of course, if you re not used to this kind of languages you can think nothing happens on the screen and that's absolutely false, you should think if something happens in your mind as a supposed intelligent watcher... that's my opinion and that's the result of so many years exposed to minor cinema in many cases. I have read this is a kind of minimalist cinema, NOT at all; using an all day story with no special effects doesn't means to be minimalist, that's Glass or Reich, for example, that is very different to this.
Great use of Istanbul as landscape, not the typical one from the postcards but the everyday city in which human beings fell, suffer and go deep into his minds, minds some times much more close to an European way of life, like Mahmut's one and some time much more close to the Asian Turkey, like Yusuf's one.
This Artificial Eye DVD is quite good, as far as I know. I have the Spanish edition, released by Cameo, but I have read this English edition is very good too, and with much more better extras.
Human thinking and feelings made art, that's, in my opinion, the most interesting way...