[moved from the Turkish/Central Asian journal / OP 02/12/07]
*A 2006 U.S. Release*
It takes most films nearly the full-duration of their running time to create and establish emotionally and psychologically complex characters. Climates (Iklimler) accomplishes the task with a handful of shots during the pre-credits sequence. This masterful new film from Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan opens amid the Greco-Roman ruins near the Mediterranean resort town of Kas, where Isa (played by Ceylan himself), an Istanbul-based architecture professor still working on his thesis, and his girlfriend, Bahar (Ebru Ceylan, his real-life wife), an art-director for a low-budget television series, are vacationing. The meticulously composed and richly detailed images that greet us subtly tell a story about this couple which no words could possibly describe. And when a shot is long-held on Bahars face going through a kaleidoscope of emotions, it manages to excavate a sorrow which permeates throughout the film. That perhaps wouldnt have been possible without Ceylans astonishing use of high-definition video. Every nuance and shift of emotion is captured with the depth and clarity splendid enough to dazzle both Michael Mann and Jia Zhang-ke -- two other major filmmakers who tested the boundaries of HD in 2006 with Miami Vice and Still Life, respectively -- even though their own films never lingered on peoples faces as much as Climates does. (I didnt mention David Lynch because his claustrophobically shot Inland Empire  transpired on low-grade DV.)
"Im a bit of a control freak," Ceylan recently stated in an interview. Besides acting and directing, he also wrote and edited the film. And if that fact, along with the casting of his wife (not to mention a few other family members), hints towards self-indulgence, then that couldnt be farther from the truth. If anything, Climates is poignantly self-reflexive; it explores a terrain previously mined by such filmmakers as John Cassavetes and Atom Egoyan.
This structurally and thematically resonant effort is full of intriguing contrasts, especially those related to form: long shots and close-ups mostly occupy the mise-en-scne which also cogently adheres to the seasonal (and thus behavioral as it pertains to the narrative) changes. (Its also interesting to examine the two "sex scenes" in the film: one rough, the other poetic. Which begs the question: has A History of Violence  forever altered our perceptions about sex in films?)
If Ceylans previous four films -- Cocoon (1995), Kasaba (1998), Clouds of May (2000) and Distant (2002) -- displayed an affection for Kiarostami, Tsai and Tarkovsky, then Climates primarily shows an affinity for Antonioni. The existential ennui conjured up by the themes and images of the Turk harks back to the likes of L'Avventura (1960) and L'Eclisse (1962). And much like those masterpieces, Climates navigates through the prism of a relationship to pursue an eternal and universal truth about men and women, one which deals with love, loss, and everything in between.
*CLIMATES premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival (in-competition). It won the FIPRESCI prize.
*Zeitgeist Video (U.S.) will release the film on DVD on June 26th.