Mature by design, evocative of Turkey’s current culture and political climate, and artfully executed, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest feature film, “The Wild Pear Tree” is a film made by a modern artistic master. We are blessed to be living in an era of a filmmaker who crafts such high art that holds strong philosophical and existential echoes of icons like Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. Three times in a row now Ceylan has crafted a masterpiece, which began in 2012 with the visually arresting and hypnotic “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and in 2014 Ceylan won the prestigious Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for the masterfully made “Winter Sleep”, which was a meditative masterpiece about the reflections and regrets of life. Nuri Bilge Ceylan has proven once again to be a unique filmmaker that creates one ravishingly gorgeous film after the next.
The film is dense with rich imagery and symbolism that is certainly liberating for a serious film viewer that is just fed up the current hollowness of award season movies that are generated out of endless campaigns and gross speculations that rob the spotlight from a more substantial work of art like this.
The film explores the melancholic lifestyle of Sinan (Dogu Demirkol), a young recent college graduate who resides in the ancient town of Can in Turkey. A town that is dominated by tourism, commerce, religion, legacies, literaries, and traditions that we see Sinan wrestle with throughout the course of the film.
The film also explores the hardships and financial struggles Sinan’s father Idris (Murat Cemcir) endures. He has a troubling gambling addiction to horse races. Ceylan beautifully crafts a film here about these forces and obstacles stacked against Sinan’s lifestyle that consists of being an unemployed aspiring writer that also wants to teach literature and share his passions to a community and world that holds very little value in the arts, literature, and other forms of intellectualism.
“The Wild Pear Tree” takes it’s time as it leisurely unravels what it has in it’s mind with brilliantly written and long dialogue passages where Ceylan once again merges the verbose with the elliptical visual grandeur that showcases Ceylan in his purest form.
At it’s core this is a transfixing and heartbreaking film as it explores Sinan’s journey of meeting with local townspeople, both in private and public sectors that show interest in possibly funding so he can self-publish his first book.
While in town, Sinan must take a state sponsored teacher’s exam, that will probably relocate him away from home. Meanwhile Idris, his father who’s also a school teacher is betting away his earnings that puts the family in financial turmoil. During the weekends Idris retreats to a small village to do maintenance on an old house that also includes digging a water well that seems to be neverending. The film shows how Idris has become a naive idealist who attempts to do the best he can from a corrupted world that has shaped his bad habits and poor lifestyle choices.
Sinan’s aspirations lead to frustrations and even some selflessness and resentment towards his father and for the community. A lot of Sinan’s frustrations clearly stem from his own refusal and lack of courage in confronting his fathers dangerous gambling addictions. This is examined brilliantly in a great scene of Sinan’s mother (Bennu Yildirimlar) that scolds him for not respecting his father and then later on he condemns him for not openly confronting him about his impulsive gambling problems.
This leads Sinan walking aimlessly throughout the town with luminous landscape cinematography by Gokhan Tiryaki who uses lushous landscape sights of the masdive hills, jaw dropping pair tree forestry, villages, and the downtown streets and piers that have crashing waves.
In one key moment in the film the camera tracks with Sinan as he talks with an old college friend who no longer writes and can’t find work as a teacher is now a riot police officer that brags about crushing skulls of student protesters that shows Turkey has become a police state that now holds disdain towards free thinking, the arts, and culture. It’s a cautionary examination that it’s a recurring cycle of life and nature in general, yet the very last image of the film that goes back to the water well hole gives great hope on how humanity will always triumph over tyranny.