Uzak (Distant) - 2002
Cannes Film Festival
2003 (Grand Prix
, Best Actor for Mehmet Emin Toprak and Muzaffer Özdemir)
Written and directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Mehmet Emin Toprak
Zuhal Gencer Erkaya
Possible spoilers ahead
Distant is the final episode of Nuri Bilge Ceylans semi-autobigraphical trilogy which also includes Kasaba and Mayis Sikintisi. Turkish photographer and filmmaker invites us into the lives of two dissimilar characters who involuntarily have to share a living space, temporarily. Their situation progresses into a symbolic war between the rural and the half baked intellectual and a display of defense of personal space.
The movie starts where Chekhovian Mayis Sikintisi ends. We see Yusuf, heading to the train station in a small village in the middle of nowhere, at dawn. He was recently laid off, so he decides to try his chance in the big city. While he is looking for a job, he plans stay at his uncle (Mahmut), who made it in the big city. But the reality is that Mahmut has not made it. He is alienated, disillusioned, sexually frustrated, artistically and physically impotent and paralyzed with angst because he turned into a commercial photographer, not an artist.
Mahmut, at first, looks like some kind of intellectual, but as the movie unfolds we se that he is not that different from Yusuf. Years ago, he had moved to the big city to make films, and in the surface he is an urban artist with his Smart car and artistic friends; but in reality he is still unable to get rid some his "villager" dispositions. Unable to create, he ends up doing odd jobs, like shooting pictures of tiles for a home improvement catalogue. He is alienated, not only from the metropolitan chaos of Istanbul, but also from his roots in the village. I guess there is some reference to Ceylan's own life here.
His frustration continuously forces him to create synthetic distance from Yusuf. For example, he watches Tarkovsky when both of them are in a room to irritate Yusuf; but when he leaves, he turns on the porn channel. To express discontent about his life being invaded, he exercises forms of symbolic violence on Yusuf.
Ceylan, in the tradition of low budget cinema, uses amateur actors, for example his relatives and friends. There is no Hollywood type great acting in this movie, nor a captivating story. In contrast, there long and static takes, brief dialogues and just great cinema with beautiful cinematography that could be compared to that of Abbas Kiarostami. The movie also reminds me of Stranger Than Paradise, not only because of the similar subject matter, but also the way Ceylan manipulates the silence to symbolize loneliness, distance and melancholy