I saw this Turkish film Uzak (distant) three years ago at a film festival in Pittsburgh. Later I watched the interview of the director Nuri Bilge Ceylan on DVD and decided to write something. It is a very slow-paced film with minimal characters, dialogues and plot. It is a story about two brothers: the older one Mahmut, is a photographer prisoned in both his physical (his apartment in Istanbul) and mental (his emotionless state in everything) container; the younger one Yusuf, is illiterate and unemployed, coming from the countryside to Istanbul in search of a job. The encounter of the two brothers triggers a series of ripples, reflections and hopefully changes in their lives. You are led into a tour of the characters’ inner states. The use of long shot and long take creates a palpable sense of isolation between people and their social and natural environment. Sound also helps to render the melancholic atmosphere: the interrupting sound such as the wind chime, the ship horn, has a penetrating effect into the numbness and somberness which has remained unnoticed.
One awesome scene in the film is the snow scene in Istanbul. I even didn’t know it snows there before seeing this film. Ceylan explained in the interview that this scene was totally unexpected: One day he woke up and saw the snow, he decided to shoot it. The beautiful snow scenes add to one more layer of the distant feeling. The most memorable shot is within the snow which portrays Mahmut standing by himself facing the river looking down into the water, with Hagia Sophia in the far background. This almost monochromatic, silhouetted shot is a perfect imagery of solitude and melancholy.
Also worth mentioning is the way Ceylan directs a film. He does not start with a complete script. He always studies, tests and improvises the scenes, dialogues and camera angles during shooting. It is workshop style rather than industry. Therefore he never had a producer and he maintains a small crew.