‘Uzak‘ is Turkish for ‘distant‘, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, made in 2002. It’s essentially a film with trifling conversation of an incisive examination of a friendship disintegrating under pressure from time, place and social inequality.
It’s parallel the way this Turkish film Uzak is constructed and is possibly be useful to look at it as an expression of a style that is swiftly fusing as global trend, and yes, there is also the dexterities, I can think of no term like ‘nouvelle vague’ that describes it exactly or the movement that the Scandinavian films of Dogme ’95 and so much it certainly appears to follow its own ascetic rules. You can see many elements of this style in Iranian film as well, especially in the works of Kiarostami, and deservedly the directors exertion stance accolades of this special work
It takes the slightest of imagination to see why Nuri Ceylan’s has chosen this name for a film about the geographical, and also emotional, gulfs that delineate and restrain human existence. This also marks his third feature, a very brooding study on the solitude of contemporary society. This film has won prizes at over 25 international film festivals, and the Grand Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
Uzak is the story of two cousins- Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak), a young factory worker who loses his job and travels to Istanbul to find a new life, as he goes on to stay with his relative Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir). Mahmut is a photographer, moderately a wealthy and intellectual man, whereas Yusuf is practically illiterate, uneducated, and unsophisticated. The two do not get along well. Yusuf in his assumption feels that he could easily find a work as a sailor, thou the jobs are far and few between, his sense of lack in direction or energy do not take him anywhere.
Thou’ Mahmut also into his wandering mood, in spite of his wealth, struggles hopelessly and his job which consists of photographing tiles, is dull and inartistic, he can barely express emotions towards his ex-wife or his lover, and while he pretends to enjoy intellectual filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, he switches channels to watch porn as soon as Yusuf leaves the room. The situations deteriorate for Yusef, as his mother in her extreme poverty cannot get her tooth fixed from the dentist, as she is left with Yusuf’s hope of sending her the money.
Yusuf in his irascible habit of following women around town goes from just plain creepy to scary. There is one scene in particular on a bus when Yusuf has his legs spread wide open and his knee is touching an attractive woman’s leg, as he sneers at her in his utmost frustration. The worse follow from his argument, as he just cannot explain to find any work to Mahmut, and start to get on Mahmut’s nerves. Mahmut yells at him, explaining how hopeless of a guest he is and how he himself had come to Istanbul without a cent and through hard work has become a success, and so much of his grueling words. Yusef, who we now see clearly as a man-child, tries his best to defend himself, but, in the end, there is no excuse for his disrespect and sloth.
On the other hand, the personal side of Mahmut catches up as his life starts crumbling when his ex-wife plans to move to Canada with her new husband. His feelings still fresh on the separation which he struggles to resolve, worse is also the mother being sick and he his left with Yusuf, the only one he has. Mahmut attempts to bond with Yusuf and recapture his love of art by taking him on a drive to photograph the beautiful Turkish countryside, but the attempt is a catastrophe on both counts. At the end of the film, Yusuf leaves without telling Mahmut, who is left to sit by the docks, watching the ships on his own.
The film’s central characters are striking examples for their beautiful performance. The two actors in their respective roles, disintegrating the relationship and parting in their respective ways is touching and heart-warming. Yusuf’s failure to get any sort of job and his incessant hanging about the house is wonderfully played by Toprak, and his inept attempts to pick up women in shops or parks form a very amusing running gag. Mahmut, on the other hand, is a perfect depiction of isolation and misery – when the two cousins go on a trip to the beautiful countryside around the city, Mahmut declares it all too depressing to photograph and immediately returns to take some more pictures of his tiles.
The film is exceptionally shot as Ceylan keeps his viewers at a distance by keeping dialogue to an absolute minimum and it takes some twelve minutes before the conversation is pronounced. . Ceylan is known for filming his protagonist from behind, which, in his view, leaves the audiences to speculate on the ominous emotions of characters whose faces are obscured and being a camera man himself, he has used the frames within frames to great visual effect, nearly the large part of film in long shots, especially the backdrops and swamped moments clearly defines the cinematic high, and by all means that his characters are isolated and depersonalized.
Few highpoints are noteworthy-when Yusuf sets off a car alarm to the embarrassment of the whole narrow street he is in, with all of the actors popping out of windows to chastise him. The shots at the Mahmut’s apartment, the interiors despite the presence of bright colors and radiators are made to seem every bit as bleak and chill as the freezing snows outside. Such warmth as there is in the film comes from its quiet observational humor, although even this tends to laugh at, rather than with, the characters trifling eccentricities.
Mahmut is barely congenial, and only at times being pitiable and we have Yusuf in his charm and dud on his journey to make his life in Istanbul. Sadly the younger actor Emin Tuprak in the role of Yusuf died in a car crash shortly before the film was screened, where both the performers also shared the prize for best actor at Cannes.
A million dreams, the urban lives, the anonymity, and the place like Turkey is known for the hospitality, which is losing slowly and It’s a tragedy in its delightful innocence is openly deceptive on screen. The solace of the parting ways will always be remembered as a major work of Ceylan and for now confirms his status as one of the influential living film-makers.
- Written; Produced & Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Casting: Muzaffer Ozdemir & Mehmet Emin Toprak
- Cinematography: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Edited by Ayhan Ergursel & Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Release dates: 20 July 2002
- Run time of 110 minutes
- Country: Turkey
- Language: Turkish