UZAK at Film festival Rotterdam

January 2004 -

Turkish moviemaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan personally makes and produces his films together with family and friends. His movie UZAK (VER) won the Grand Prix du Jury in Cannes, with the prize for best actor going collectively to the two main characters, portrayed by Muzaffer Ozdemir and Mehmet Emin Toprak. UZAK will be shown at the film festival in Rotterdam and will be released in the Netherlands on 26 February.


Still from UZAK

Uzak was filmed in wintry Istanbul, in long shots that are often nearly photographic. A village sleeping in the snow against a hill, a road leading to the city. A man on his way from the village to the city. Then a man in his flat, with a hazy woman's figure in the background that is getting undressed. The first words spoken in the film come from the answering machine for Mahmut, who lives in the flat.

Mahmut is a photographer with lost ambitions. His marriage failed. Now he photographs tiles for advertising folders and sometimes welcomes a woman for a few hours. His expression is not bitter; he almost seems at ease with his loneliness.

Cousin Yusuf unexpectedly arrives on Mahmut's doorstep. He wants to find work at sea now that he has been fired from the factory. Initially the two men live virtually in ignorance of one another. At night Mahmut sniffs his cousin's shoes, treats them with a spray and places them in a cupboard. Yusuf secretly calls his mother while Mahmut is secretly watching a porn movie. It becomes increasingly difficult for the men to avoid one another. Mahmut gets caught in his own mousetrap of glue when Yusuf nearly catches him listening in on a telephone conversation. Yusuf is even still present when he leaves one evening at Mahmut's request: beer cans and flowing ashtrays infuriate Mahmut. Tension rises when Mahmut believes that Yusuf is responsible for the disappearance of his silver watch. He even keeps suspecting his cousin after he finds the watch. Yusuf is clearly insulted. He leaves as unexpectedly as he arrived. The keys are left hanging on a coat hook, his sleeping bag rolled up on his bed.

Ceylan's filming technique and storytelling are woven into a beautiful whole. The scenes do not tell details and keep the viewers at a distance. Even the two main characters do not converse much. Nevertheless, much is made clear by Ceylan. At the end, for example, when Mehmet is sitting on a bench alongside the Bosporus, in the cold and wind. He stares out over the grey surface of the water for minutes on end. He is smoking a cigarette from the pack his cousin left behind. He inhales deeply, forcefully blows the smoke out. To freedom.