(19/09/07) – Nuri Bilge Ceylan came into filmmaking from photography and has become, over the last ten years, one of the biggest names in Turkish, indeed European, cinema. Climates (Iklimler, 2006) sees the director return to his passion for photography and it is the first of his four films to be directly influenced by the medium. Since he began making films, Ceylan admits to having missed taking photographs as he enjoyed the freedom of working alone. He believes that in photography the relationship between art and the self is more innocent, pure and cleaner and that collaborative film-making only interrupts that process.
With Climates, Ceylan cast himself and his wife Ebru Ceylan, something which many directors would have considered a brave move. The idea for casting came to him during a trip with his wife to a small town on the Black Sea coast. They went back to the town with a small video camera for test shots on the beach, using themselves as actors, and ultimately realised they would be most suitable to play the couple. Ceylan also wrote the script with the idea that they would act in this film and the benefit of the test shots showed him what would work in terms of dialogue.
For the premise of Climates, the director was motivated by the idea that humans were born to be happy for simple reasons and unhappy for even simpler ones. This existential viewpoint gently conveys the belief that life is hard and complicated even though it shouldn’t be. The protagonists of Climates (Isa, a university lecturer) and Bahar (a TV art director) are two lonely figures in a relationship who, on a summer holiday in Kas, become resigned to their incompatibility. During a tense motorbike ride, when Bahar causes Isa to skid and crash, they quietly part with Bahar leaving for home in Istanbul. Following their separation, the three seasons in the film become parables for the changes in their lives. In the rainy autumn Isa encounters a former lover Serap and, in the snowy winter, he decides to track down Bahar in the mountains on a location shoot.
This is arguably the director’s most mature work and continues a natural thread that begun with his earlier films and Distant (Uzak, 2002) by expressing in cinema the incommunicability of humans in the modern age. Though this subject has been alluded to by many filmmakers in the past, not least Michelangelo Antonioni and more recently Bela Tarr, Ceylan transposes human isolation to a 21st Century landscape with a more emotional resonance as opposed to the detachment of the other directors. Where as in Distant it was the incompatibility of family members, here it is the more passionate union of husband and wife, a break-up which has both intimate and far-reaching effects.
The director admits to trying to make each film completely different, but there is a visceral language that seems to connect them. Despite the success of Distant and the finance now available, he kept Climates to a low-budget just as in his other films. The humanism found in all of them is attributed to his casting amateur actors, mostly family members, including his mother and father, and his wife in this film. Such methodology informs the natural atmosphere found in his work; the audience can relate more easily to ‘everyday people’ than characters played by professional actors. What Climates ultimately achieves is to carry forward Ceylan’s estrangement of the individual with a natural existentialism, monotonous but humanistic characters, and drawing on the specific issues of life.
The DVD includes a very generous amount of worthwhile extras: interviews with both Ceylan and his co-star wife Ebru Ceylan, the Making of Climates, a couple of film trailers and biographical information on the director. After his work on Climates, Ceylan intends to spend more time on photography in the future. How much of a bearing that will have on his subsequent work remains to be seen, though it can only be encouraging after the positive effects his revisionist experiments had on this film.
The DVD of Climates is out now. Please follow the links provided to buy a copy and support Kamera by doing so.