As always with Celyan's films, watching his latest feels like reading a good, dense book, filled with rich characters and delicious philosophical musings.
The Wild Pear Tree is yet another of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's leisurely paced, very literary cinematic experiences. Just like his previous efforts, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Winter Sleep, it starts out slowly and you don't know where it's going exactly.
The film is basically a post-college blues movie where the young protagonist is excessively downtrodden and cynical. It provides some Ceylan-ian visual showstoppers in beautiful rural Turkey setting, again sumptuously lensed by Ceylan's long time collaborator cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki. Watching The Wild Pear Tree feels like, as always with Celyan's films, reading a dense, good book, filled with rich characters and delicious philosophical musings.
Sinan (Dogu Demirkol) is a young man who just graduated from college wanting to be a writer. He just came back home to his parents in small rural town. He has some decisions to make: does he get some silly job in town writing travel brochures or does he go to mandatory military service and delay entering the adulthood a little bit longer? His schoolteacher father Idris (Murat Cemcir) is squandering all his money on gambling, and digging a well where the water never comes, while annoying everyone around him with his stubbornness.
A showstopper comes early with Hatice (Hazar Ergüçlü), Sinan's High School sweetheart, not sure about her impending marriage to an older man which will surely guarantee a safe but boring life. They converse under a leaves-turning tree and share a forbidden kiss. The whole sequence, as the golden autumn sunlight bathes the young lovers and the wind caresses and ruffles Hatice’s raven hair every each way, is stunning.
There are two very lengthy conversation scenes that shows Sinan's world view, one with him confronting a successful local author at a bookstore. Half jealous and half resentful, he questions the author's legitimacy of success. Later in the film, Sinan follows the author along the docks of the coastal city of Çanakkale to harass him and almost ends with a physical confrontation in which the author accuses Sinan of "callow excess of young heart."
The other one shows him getting into a testy discussion with two young imams about interpretations of Koran and the religion's place in the modern world. Obviously, the young man could do without faith.
Balancing petty earthly matters (his family dynamics -- long suffering mom, feisty younger sister and of course the no good dad) and philosophical musings, and steeped in metaphors, The Wild Pear Tree plays out like a thick Russian novel. Murat Cemcir deserves a recognition for his portrayal of Idris, a dreamer and a gambler whose self-deprecating humor, goofy chortle and occasional otherworldly wisdom, is right out of a Dostoevsky novel.
The Wild Pear Tree is that rare film that captures the trial and tribulations of a young person who is intelligent enough to be both self-aware and pessimistic. His disdain for his father and the older generation obviously stems from his disenchantment about the dim future prospects that awaits him. The film's title is also the title of Sinan's book, which is supposed to be an honest observation of humanity filled with colorful characters. Therefore we realize unceremoniously that his book is actually what we’ve been watching. Wild Pear Tree is yet another rich, resonant film from Ceylan.
The Wild Pear Tree opens on Wednesday, January 30 at Film Forum, New York.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema can be found at www.dustinchang.com