(2002, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Uzak is the first, and probably the only, movie from Turkey on my list. I didn’t even know Turkey had a film industry, so this is a surprising entry. Very well. Turkey, it’s your turn to impress me!
Uzak is Turkish for “distant”, and this is the theme of the movie, both physically and metaphorically. Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak) is a young factory worker who moves in with a relative living in Istanbul, the self-imposed loner Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir) while he tries to seek out new employment. The arrangement doesn’t please Mahmut very much, since he’s an anti-social bore and prefers his own company. This causes tension.
Or it should, but fails to because Uzak is so damn boring. I get the significance of the title and the message behind the movie. Modern life is unsympathetic, no one wants really talks to each other anymore, and there’s more value on money than on personal relationships. But the movie fails to communicate this message effectively, spending much of its running time literally just hanging around the house, usually watching porn.
Not once did this film make me stop and think and examine its message, simply because everyone was so drab and unemotional I couldn’t connect with a single character, which should be the key anchor in a movie like this. Make us like a character, and we’ll happily sit around and watch them pace around their living room. But I didn’t like anyone. The moment anybody starts talking, they complain about how rubbish their lives are, and it makes me not want to hang around with them for very long. Then I realise I have another hour and a half with them and I cry a little inside.
The acting is a key factor in this drabness. The performances lack any real emotion, resulting in the final product being a couple of dowdy men wandering around a brown flat. What’s worse is that the emotional distance between the characters is largely just represented by the characters never looking at each other and not saying a word to each other for much of the movie. There is no subtle hint of either of the main characters trying to connect with the other in any way. It’s just two people sitting in a room looking bored.
The cinematography is pretty impressive, stuck largely to static wide-lens shots of key places, but the lack of action makes me crave more close-ups occasionally. I don’t want to see a wide-angle shot of a scene if the characters are just going to sit in one corner and watch television for ten minutes. It doesn’t make for good cinema.
The only aspect of the movie that interested me was the characters relationships with women. Mahmut’s sub-plot with his wife is actually quite good, and I was genuinely interested in her story about moving and getting a new job in Canada. I was also oddly fascinated by Yusuf seemingly stalking women around the city in an attempt to get their attention, even if I didn’t understand why on earth he was doing it. But neither of these aspects are explored as much as I’d like them to be, and as such, they fail to save the film.
There’s really not much to discuss with this movie, sadly. It makes reviewing it difficult when much of the time I failed to connect with anyone and as such the film failed to hook me in. I recognised its message but felt it communicated it poorly.
You let me down, Turkey. You really did.
Starring Muzaffer Ozdemir, Mehmet Emin Toprak, Zuhal Gencer Erkaya, Nazan Kirilmis, Feridun Koc, Fatma Ceylan & Ebru Ceylan
Written & produced by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Cinematography by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Edited by Ayhan Ergürsel & Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Favourite Scene: Mahmut’s ex-wife talking about going to Canada was vaguely interesting, and I actually wish the movie had been her story instead
Scene That Bugged Me: Why is Yusuf stalking some random woman in the park?
Watch it if: You enjoy watching other people watch TV in complete silence
Avoid it if: You like things to actually happen