Club Tropicana

Film Review: The Wild Pear Tree

18 December 18 words: Laura Enright

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's eight feature film is the story of a young writer's ambitions being thwarted by his father's debts...

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Starring: Aydin Dogu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Hazar Ergüçlü

Running time: 188 minutes

The Wild Pear Tree is a truly unusual film. Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a previous winner of the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It follows the life of Sinan, a bright young graduate continually dulled by the limitations of the sleepy, under-privileged town he hails from. Sinan is a writer whose ambition to publish his book, a “quirky auto-fiction meta-novel”, is overshadowed by his father’s debts. He feels conflicted about moving back to his sleepy hometown of Çan, Turkey. Much of the plot centres around Sinan’s love/hate relationship with his father Idris, the unreliable patriarch of the household and a gambler in denial. The film does not paint Turkey in a glamorous light, but provides a commentary on the struggle of the ‘starving artist’ in contemporary society.

While it’s always refreshing to see a European film not in English, its subtitles alienated me a bit – concentrating on the excessive dialogue meant I didn’t get a chance to take in all the beautiful cinematography. I wished Ceylan (the director) would have left some of the script to the viewer’s imagination, but the film is spectacularly shot. Ceylan’s camerawork is interesting, including lots of long-shots and sometimes we see the action from over the shoulder of the protagonist, which allowing us to conjure the emotions on the face of the character.

It’s not an easy film to watch, nor an easy one to like, but it certainly is cinematically beautiful.

Many of the characters we meet only once, in striking encounters – one distinctive scene shows Hatice (Hazar Ergüçlü), a young woman from Sinan’s past who appears like a siren to entice him. There is a long, rambling scene that addresses the Islamic religion in Turkey that I did not enjoy – it did nothing to advance the plot or develop the characters and came across as ‘preachy’, for want of a better word.

The Wild Pear Tree includes insightful commentary on life, existentialism, writing, human nature, the role of the artist in contemporary society and an imperfect family dynamic. I would deem it suitable for an older audience. The film garnered huge critical acclaim for its vivid imagery but while it doesn’t have the sheer entertainment factor of a very engaging storyline, its purpose is to allow viewers to reflect on the human condition. It’s not an easy film to watch, nor an easy one to like, but it certainly is cinematically beautiful. It’s artsy and existentialist, something that begs to be watched on perhaps, a long flight. I can’t help but feel there are motifs or messages that went over my head. Its lengthy running time is certainly off-putting – it’s over three hours long – but if you’re into photography and art, this will be a film that you’ll enjoy. Like the equivalent of a masterpiece novel in film-form, it is something that needs to be thought about, digested and watched again.

Did you know? Nuri Bilge Ceylan cast Dogu Demirkol after watching him get booed for his performance as a stand-up comedian in the Turkish version of Got Talent TV show (Yetenek Sizsiniz Turkiye). 

The Wild Pear Tree is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 20 December

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