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Nuri Bilge Ceylan – ”Everywhere ends up being the same place.”

This is a rare opportunity to watch Uzak (2002) on a Big Screen in a thematic curated film season exploring the solitude and the cities. Coming from an independent filmmaker not much recognised in such times, mr. Ceylan managed to masterfully portray complex characters with psychological aspects that remains true in the Cinema’s history. Yes, it is considered by many film critics a masterpiece of Turkish New Wave. How did Nuri became a filmmaker?

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was born in Bakırköy, Istanbul on 26th January 1959. After graduating high school, he began studying chemical engineering at Istanbul Technical University. But his interest in the art of photography kindled during his time at high school and blossomed at the Boğaziçi University photography club. 

Thinking of engineering could be a profession and photography a hobby, he started travelling in the East and West lasting months before returning to Turkey for military service. Cinema was dead in Turkey after television took over. Still, during the military service, Ceylan thought of turning into filmmaking, and he achieved his first major critical success with the film, Distant (Uzak) in 2002. The movie actually forms the third of what could be thought of as a trilogy of autobiographical movies from Ceylan, the first two being The Small Town (1998) and Clouds of May (1999), works which use the director’s own friends and family and hometown locations.

Uzak is a chronicle of numbing loneliness, longing, and isolation in the lives of two men who are consumed by their own problems. In Ceylan’s own words: “My film not only talks about the lives of several characters but about life in a big city as well. City-dwellers try to organise their lives in a way that they don’t have to count on anyone but themselves, and end up building their own prison cell.” 

In the film, Ceylan pays special attention to Istanbul. He captures the whole beauty of the city but tries to maintain the mood of Mahmud at the same time. Mahmud’s Istanbul is empty, grey, and the unstoppable snow makes us feel his desperation. 

What makes the film very special in my opinion are the elements of dark humour and the realism. He uses thematic elements such as the painful virtue of loneliness and the never-ending melancholy of a broken up relationship to bring in attention raw an unpolished emotions in a very clear and simple way. It is also wonderfully acted, and filmed, winning 47 awards in the festival circuit.

It is a captivating meditation, mesmerising for its viewers in the cinema’s auditorium. 

 

Read the next article with Zeki Demirkubuz here.