“’Her şey senden çok uzak göründüğünde umutsuzluğa düşme, kendine dön, çünkü sen kendine en yakın şeysin! Kendinle enerji biriktir! Sonra uzak şeylerin bile ötesine erişmek için kendini güçlü hissedeceksin!’”
‘Uzak’, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan in 2002, is a Turkish film about an unemployed man, Yusuf, played by Mehmet Emin Toprak, who moves in with his relative Mahmut, played by Muzaffer Özdemir. Yusuf struggles to find work and the two men find themselves at odds. Mahmut is a photographer with ambitions to become an artist, but he is also lonely having driven his ex-wife away. In an attempt to bond, the two men take a photography road trip, but this only drives them further apart and Yusuf moves out leaving Mahmut alone. It’s a melancholy movie, drawing inspiration from Robert Bresson and repeatedly referencing Tarkovsky throughout. In fact, Mahmut watches Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ and ‘Mirror’ whilst waiting for his lodger to go to bed so he can put porn on instead. These scenes serve multiple purposes – firstly to build Mahmut’s character as a pretentious man who likes others to think of him as cultured. Secondly, it acts as a reference to Ceylan’s directorial inspiration with the movie itself: there is something strange but apt about watching a character watch Tarkovsky, filmed in a long, unbroken shot, the kind that the Russian director would have employed. The film is full of these moments, Ceylan unflinchingly presenting the lives of the two men in such a way as to emphasise their ‘apartness’ and their lack of company. The final main scene in which Mahmut covertly watches his ex-wife leave the country with her new lover is heartbreaking, made all the more so by the final shot of the film: Mahmut on a bench in the cold, smoking one of his ex-housemate’s horrible cigarettes.
Would I recommend it? It’s a sad movie, but with a number of darkly comedic moments that keep you from sinking under its melancholic tone. It reminded me of Aki Kaurismäki’s ‘Ariel’ in its Bressonian feel and its honest focus on working class lives, so that would be my suggested double bill.