A slow-burning Antonioni-esque drama with not many words, and a largely effective evocation of the fragility of marriage and complexities of communication.
Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
2006 | Turkey | Drama | 101 mins | 1.85:1 | Turkish
M18 (passed clean) for a strong sexual scene
Cast: Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Nazan Kesal
Plot: A university instructor, Isa is an inattentive husband to his younger, TV-business wife Bahar. Self-absorbed and selfish, Isa only communicates in the most rudimentary way, while she, similarly, detaches into crying jags and juvenile behavior.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize (Cannes)
International Sales: Pyramide International
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Audience Type: General Arthouse
(Reviewed at the Ceylan Retrospective – first published 9 Mar 2015)
With Climates, writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan gives us a film that I would describe as drifting. It goes to wherever the wind blows, just like its two lead characters – Isa and Bahar. Both are content with existing in the space that they occupy, even the climate of its space, yet they struggle internally to make sense of the problems, some shared, others isolated, that they seem to unable to evade, let alone solve.
In other words, Climates would have been a film made by Antonioni if he was Turkish and living the best part of his career in the post-2000s. That’s high praise indeed, but Ceylan, arguably the preeminent filmmaker of his country, and one of the towering figures of contemporary world cinema (I would put him in the same league as the likes of Leviathan‘s Andrei Zvyagintsev), is undoubtedly on track to be one of cinema’s great masters.
Climates stars director Ceylan himself as Isa, the self-absorbed husband who enjoys taking photographs of architectural ruins. He has a day job as an educator, but brings his wife (literally his real wife Erbu Ceylan who plays Bahar) to places of seeming tranquility to relax. There are not many words involved, and their communication exchanges are rudimentary, but they reveal so much about the fragility of their marriage. The performances are excellent, and by blurring the lines between real and reel, the actors bring an added realism to the drama. It is a toxic relationship, and it is the kind of marriage I’m sure the Ceylans (and any other couple in the world) would care to avoid.
Once again, like most of the auteur’s works, Climates juxtaposes the complexities of communication with the topography and climate of the spaces that the characters find themselves embedded in. When the film cuts to a wide shot of a wintry village or of the ominous sky of dark clouds, a soft but deep bell-like sound reverberates. If you don’t have a sharp ear, you might miss it. There is a metaphysical quality to that moment, as if it is meant to awaken the soul of guilt within us, and I think it occurs once or twice in most of his films, giving them a meditative quality.
Climates may not be one of his most accomplished pictures, but for me it works most effectively as a spiritual cousin to the epic, more talky Winter Sleep (2014), which expands cinematically both drama and landscape like never before in the director’s filmography.