Monday, November 12, 2007

Uzak by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Uzak tells the story of Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak), a young factory worker who loses his job and travels to Istanbul to stay with his relative Mahmut (Muzaffer Özdemir) while looking for a job. Mahmut is a wealthy and intellectual photographer, whereas Yusuf is illiterate, uneducated, and unsophisticated. The two do not get on well. Yusuf assumes that he will easily find work as a sailor, but there are no jobs, and he has no sense of direction or energy. Meanwhile, Mahmut, despite his wealth, is aimless too: his job, which consists of photographing tiles, is dull and inartistic, he can barely express emotions towards his ex-wife or his lover, and while he pretends to enjoy intellectual filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, he switches channels to watch porn as soon as Yusuf leaves the room.

Mahmut attempts to bond with Yusuf and recapture his love of art by taking him on a drive to photograph the beautiful Turkish countryside, but the attempt is a failure on both counts. At the end of the film, Yusuf leaves without telling Mahmut, who is left to sit by the docks, watching the ships on his own.

Since winning the Grand Prize at Cannes in 2003 for DISTANT (Uzak), Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the ‘Lone Wolf’ of Turkish cinema, has been critically acclaimed for his spare and unaffected style of filmmaking, inviting comparisons to Tarkovsky, Bresson and Kiarostami. Humorous and masterful, his is a cinema that spans the modern experience: examining rural life, relationships, masculinity, and urban alienation. Often operating as writer, director, editor and cinematographer, and usually casting members of his own family, Ceylan's style is unique because it is so personal.

Ceylan was born in Istanbul in 1959 and was brought up in the rural region of Antelonia. After initially studying engineering, he changed track and studied filmmaking at Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul. An accomplished photographer, he was first noticed for his 1995 short film, COCOON (Koza) which was selected to play in competition at Cannes. His first feature, THE SMALL TOWN (Kasaba), was shot in black-and-white in the town where he grew up, with a team of only two (Ceylan included). His two following films, CLOUDS OF MAY (Mayis Sikintisi) and DISTANT (Uzak) were selected respectively for the Berlin Film Festival in 2000 and Cannes in 2003. DISTANT won the Grand Prix and Best Actor prize at Cannes.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan (born in Istanbul, 1959) was brought up in the country. After gaining an electric engineer diploma from the prestigious Bosphorus University of Istanbul, he lived in London, made long trips (one of them to the Himalayas) and returned home with hundreds of black-and-white photos. He was first noticed with a 20-minute film, "Koza-Cacoon" selected for Cannes' short films. His first feature, "Kasaba - The Town" was shot in black-and-white in the very town where he grew up, with a team of only two, including himself who also wrote, shot and edited it. Very small crews and a very artisanal way of making films would become his trademark. His two following films, "Mayis Sikintisi - Clouds of May" and "Uzak - Distant" were chosen respectively for Berlin 2000 and Cannes 2003.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a unique director in the general panorama of the Turkish cinema. The 'lonely wolf' of the Turkish cinema insists on staying outside the 'system', writing, directing, shooting and editing all his films, filming only his family or friends. His is an essentially documentary style, but shaped and refined with long shots, careful camera movements and a precious editing which allow the young filmmaker to recreate life as he sees it in every new film. A constant rhythm and a faithful approach to reality, but each time with a different taste left in our mouths, a taste of the turkish cherry, one is inclined to say, thinking of the great Iranian cineaste whom Ceylan declares one of his masters, next to Bergman, Antonioni and Tarkovsky. All of his films have had a very positive critical response. Such as: "An exquisite orchestration of monochrome cinematography and sound" (Sight and Sound, for The Town), "A miracle of sensuality and poetry..." (Le Monde, for Clouds of May). " Uzak is in the tradition of Joyce's urban paralysis, Eliot's Wasteland, the cruel vaudeville of Waiting for Godot and, perhaps most importantly, the pained silences and the expressionist, dessicated landscape of Antonioni" (Cinematographer, for Distant).

Artificial Eye have released a 2 disc set of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's early films Kasaba (The Small Town, 1997), and Mayis Sikintisi (Clouds of May, 1999). The release makes perfect sense as a combination, as the two films compliment each other, but mostly it gives those who have been impressed by the Turkish director's 2002 Cannes Grand Prix winner, Uzak (Distant), and last year's Iklimer (Climates), a chance to see the early development of this highly rated film-maker.

While the director seems to be getting stronger with each new film he makes, the two films on offer here are nothing short of beautiful. The photographic sharpness, focus on humanity, and the themes of restlessness, urban drift, and life choices, which shape the later films, are also featured here.

Ceylan came to film from practising photography and the eye has developed filters through to his cinematography. If these films were albums of single shots of wide foreboding skies holding threatening clouds, the wind dancing through fields, the play of shadows on fairgrounds, and the grooved lines on aging faces, or the yearning look in the eyes of children, they would warrant repeated viewings in their own right. What makes these films superbly shot films work as moving pictures is the combination of framing, pacing, and storytelling, of a very natural and human kind.

The feel of these films is reminiscent of early films from Wim Wenders, such as Alice in the Cities, or Kings of The Road. There is a sense of realism in the exploration of human interaction, and internal desire, of hope, and of memory that is reminiscent also of the Free Cinema films of Lindsay Anderson, such as Thursday's Children, O Dreamland, and Every Day Except Christmas.

The interaction of actors and landscape, the focus on passing moments, rather than a movement through an obviously devise audience-pleasing plot structure, reflects the films of Tarkovsky, or Ozu. As in Ozu films, families talk about the past, the present and the future, and the camera is often set at about waist level to capture the action, or conversation in unobtrusive medium to long shots, with little tracking. The result for the viewer is one of feeling that you are sitting and experiencing the situations with the immediate presence and opportunity to observe the finest details of the scene offered by still photography.

Clouds of May carries a dedication to Anton Chekhov, and it is more than the concern over an orchard, that carries the Russian writer's influence in the work of Ceylan. The notion of urban drift, of the possibilities offered by the metropolis over the limitations of the provincial small town, which manages to keep a magnetic pull over the characters, as it contains family history, is a strong feature of these two films. This theme is further developed in Uzak, which explores the eventualities of the young escaping the parental town for the independence offered by Istanbul. The conversations in the film echo those from Chekhov's work, wherein generational aspirations, memories, and disappointments, are laid bare.

As with the sheer brilliance of the photography enhancing but not overwhelming Ceylan's work, neither do the aforementioned, and other various influences on his work, prevent these films from containing a unique and flowing cinematic voice. There is a strong sense of the autobiographical in these films and notably, Clouds of May features a plot line based on the filming of an earlier film, Kasaba. It seems inevitable that Ceylan will go on to make even greater films in his career, but these films on their own are more unique and beautiful than mere starting points.

A Quick Chat with Nuri Bilge Ceylan
By Jason Wood

Jason Wood: Could you begin by commenting on the fact that on Uzak, you multi-task: shooting, editing and directing. Where did you learn so many different skills?
Nuri Bilge Ceylan: I was a photographer before. I started photography when I was fifteen years old. And I have the kind of personality that likes the technical things actually. And also I am an electrical engineer so...

But it's not because I don't trust anybody - I have ideas about all these things and I know things that I don't need. I don't like many people around during the shooting so that's why I do as much as I do. I keep the crew very small. If I find a cinematographer he will want an assistant and many lights which I also don't like. I work with very few lights, available light mostly.

Did you study at Film School?

After finishing university I wanted to study in London and I came here but it was very expensive and so I went back to Turkey to study cinematography for two years. It was actually a four year course but after two I left because I think the actual process of filmmaking is more important in terms of gaining an education.

The central character in Uzak is a photographer. Had you always wanted to make a film that dealt with this subject?

Well, it was for practical reasons, because I shoot shutter film in my house and there was a studio there, so I could use it if I made the character a photographer. It could have been something else, it wasn't that important.

So you actually shot in your house?

Yes. And also I used my car. I thought, why not? And it was cheaper that way.

You must be a producer's dream because you keep costs to a minimum. You do everything yourself and even use your own location and props! How did the idea for Uzak come to you and how did you begin to map out the two central characters in the film, Mahmut and Yusuf?

Actually at first I wanted to make a film about two photographers, because these kind of problems happened to me ten years ago. But to be able to shoot the character of Mahmut better I decided to put an opposite, younger character in. This is Yusuf.

Your first two films – Kasaba and Mayis Sikintisi – are set in rural locations. Uzak begins in the country before moving into the city. How did you find the differences in filming in the rural areas and the more urban landscape? Did you like the different themes that this introduced?

For me it's not a big difference. The only difference is that in the city there are more people walking around so you have to tackle this problem. It was also cheaper to film in the city because I think everybody was staying in their own houses.

Also there is the difference between someone from a small town and someone from a bigger city because the character of Mehmet was originally from this town, and he's kind of changed, his ideals have kind of altered. Was that something you wanted to explore by having Yusuf come and show him how to change?

Actually most of the people living in Istanbul are originally from the country. There is a huge migration to Istanbul because everything is there; all the money, all the business, everything. So everybody's dream, every young person's dream, is to come to Istanbul to find work or to find a better life. So the subject matter is quite typical for Turkey. It happens to everybody.

There is a line where Yusuf says, 'This place has changed you.' Are you saying that living in a city and in an urban metropolis can have a kind of corrupting influence on people's characters?

I think so, because in life you have to help each other because of the conditions. They make the school together sometimes in the villages, and also the Mosque. But in the city, if you have the opportunities and if you earn enough money you begin to be reserved. Firstly, you don't like to want something from others and in return you begin not to give anything to others. So you start to live in your own apartment like a prison.

The film highlights the harsh economic realities of their situation. The factory in their town has closed down and entire families have lost their work, hence the move to the city. Was it important to you that you did address the economic realities of life in Turkey?

Well that was not my first interest actually, but I needed a reason for the young boy to come to the city. In those days there was a future crisis in Turkey and it influenced everybody's life, not only the poor people but the rich people also. I am interested in the inner life of the people but this fact came as a result of the background of Yusuf.

The moment where Mahmut rediscovers the silver watch he believed Yusuf to have stolen is pivotal.

He wanted to take advantage of this situation in the relationship because he wanted Yusuf to feel guilty. By means of that Mahmut can be more powerful.

Mahmut seems to be paralysed by apathy and there's a great sequence where he is on a shoot and sees this perfect photo opportunity with the sun and mountains, and he asks Yusuf to set up the camera but then says, 'No, fuck it'.

I think this scene illustrates the type of character that he is. I know this situation very well because I was a photographer. When you are in your car in the countryside you always see something to shoot but the motivation or the urge, that's the degree of your love of your art and it determines whether you stop and shoot it or not. I wanted to show that the distance between his ideals and his real life is growing. So this scene would help me to do that whilst also typifying photographers.

This moment also hints at the film's humour, as do the moments where Mahmut becomes stuck in his own mousetrap and when he switches from pornography to an arty Tarkovsky film to avoid detection.

It's not an intention to be humorous, it was more a reflection of how I see life. Even in the most tragic situations I see humour. Humour can underline tragedy better if they are together; they are like a sister and brother. I also stepped in this kind of mousetrap but I never laughed at it. When you look from outside it is funny and I think with our life, if you are living alone in a house for a long time, habits and our obsessions begin to be funny because of the type of society we live in. In the house we relax and we live without masks.

We've touched on the reference to Tarkovsky in Uzak. Is he a major influence?

I am the sum of everything that has influenced me in my life. My observations, my own life, other films, everything. Tarkovsky is one of the filmmakers that has influenced but even more than Tarkovsky I would cite Ozu. Not only with his films but also with his decisions. As a filmmaker he became more and more sophisticated and in his final films reduced things such as camera movement to the bare minimum. The subject matter also narrowed and this kind of attitude especially influenced me. Also, I think Ozu has a great amount of compassion for his characters and for people in general.

Is the editing process one that you particularly enjoy? Most directors I talk to find it to be so.

It is the same for me, because it is here that I can really be alone. You have to deal with many kinds of people during shooting. In the script you are also alone but I am not very successful with that, it is the most difficult part for me. In editing it is real joy. I can also work at night; I like it the most.

Did the film drastically change during the editing process?

Yes, it changed a lot. Actually there were many more scenes that I found unnecessary in the editing stage.

What sort of scenes did you cut?

There were more about the relationships of the characters. For instance, there was a small nephew and a birthday scene. There was also a murder in the apartment upstairs. It felt like something from an action movie and didn't suit Uzak at all. What this sequence did do however was provide the motivation for Mahmut and Yusuf going together on the photography trip. Now they go without any specific reason.

The film is beautifully composed. I've never seen Istanbul in snow. I was reminded of Kiarostammi in the way you position your figures within their landscapes.

I don't plan these things that far in advance. For me, you get in a car and then begin to search with the actors and the crew the best way to shoot a scene. I improvise where to put the camera depending upon the locations and am not specific in this regard in the shooting script. I try to find a focal point for the camera and then begin to rehearse.

There are not a huge amount of close-ups: you allow the camera to simply observe and allow things to unfold. Is this something you like to do?

In my first film there were many close-ups, but with time I instinctively began to like them less. I think you should have a good reason for close-ups. If I can do it without a cut I prefer to do it without a cut, but I am not obsessive about not cutting and so the scene should be a master shot. Again, I decide these instinctively and on location, not beforehand in the script.

I did like the cut to a close-up of the keys Yusuf returns. It was such a melancholic moment. You get the sense that something has passed between these two people that will never be regained.

Actually, I wrote it and shot it more after he leaves the house but in the editing I think the keys were enough and if it's enough you don't need other things. I prefer to tell the story in the most minimalist way.

For me I think the overriding feeling of the film is one of sadness. Do you see it this way?

I put a little hope in the last scene. Mahmut smokes the cigarette that he refuses to smoke when offered it to him. His smoking again can mean maybe again he is ready to change and perhaps has the potential to do so. Perhaps this is a sign of hope.

I also found Mahmut's relationship with his ex-wife to be quite poignant. He follows her to the airport prior to her departure for a new life and then can't bring himself to actually say 'goodbye'. There's a wonderful shot where she spots him hiding behind a pillar and he jumps back behind it. Did you think he was aspiring to any kind of reconciliation?

Actually, he left his wife because he thought much more interesting things were going to happen in his life and she began to appear as an obstacle to him; I think many men in Turkey and in the world are like this. It's a kind of hope for him, but if they come together again it will not work out, I'm sure. He will be the same man.

Are there autobiographical elements to the film?

Of course, yes. It's perhaps the most autobiographical film of mine. About 40% of it is autobiographical. The script came out of my own experience and also my observations of my friends.

Your wife also is in the film. How did you find working with her?

My wife is from film school and is also a short filmmaker. Actually, someone else was going to act that part but there were some technical problems and we had to change it.

Were the two phenomenal lead actors – Muzaffer Özdemir and Mehmet Emin Toprak – ones you had considered or was there a long audition process?

These were actors who I also worked with on my previous films. I know them very well, but on this film I wanted to work with different actors. I wanted the character of Yusuf (Toprak) to be younger at first and I put an ad in the newspaper and I tried many more people for that role. And for the photographer (Özdemir), I wanted to use someone else and made many test shots.

Do you enjoy working with a combination of professional and amateur actors in this film?

Yes. In this film there are professionals as well, which is something I wanted to try, as I've infrequently worked with trained professionals. The ex-wife for instance, the janitor and also the lover of the photographer are all professional actors. But I think I prefer amateurs. Their responses are very good and they give themselves to the subject very seriously and with a lot of energy.

And do you allow them to contribute moments of improvisation to the script?

I don't show them the script as I want to see what they can do first. I show them the situation and what kind of things they should talk about, and in the rehearsal I like to see what kind of things they can do, where they can imagine something I couldn't, and if I don't like it I begin to change things. We try to find another balance in the scene and we come to a conclusion together. But I think amateurs can create a very nice style that you never imagine.

How did the tragic death of Mehmet Emin Toprak affect you personally and did you see the major award he received for acting as recognition of his acting talents?

He was not only my actor but also my cousin and that increased my suffering in those days. After he received the prize in Cannes it was even more poignant.

And of course, Uzak also won a major prize in Cannes in its own right. As a filmmaker who is beginning to attain a reputation on an international level, how important are these festivals in bringing your work to a wider audience?

Actually I don't like to talk about my films too much, but of course the festivals help a lot with regards to selling the film. This is especially true of Cannes. For this kind of film, festivals are the best place for recognition and no one would even hear about the without a festival as a platform. Cannes is a very strong festival, even if you don't win, because everyone is there. Also, more producers take interest in your work and you can find funding much easier.

Do these festivals and awards bring compromise? You strike me as someone who likes their independence.

I've always produced my own films and I always put the money up myself without asking anyone else. But fortunately because I make low budget films I always make a profit so I've never had a problem. There are more offers now to co-produce and things like that but I'm not sure. I am thinking about that. I finish the script and then decide what I can do.

Would you consider working outside Turkey?

I am sure I want to make films in Turkey only.

One sequence in Uzak that I particularly wanted to talk about before we conclude is the dream sequence where you play with the film speed. It stands out from the rest of the film.

Yes, there is one dream sequence for Yusuf where he sees a light in the room - also I manipulated the sound. It's not exactly a dream. There is a time between dreaming and waking where you don't understand what is happening, but of course I shot this scene with half the frames per second. Something strange is going to happen. I wanted to add some kind of mystery to the scene because I wanted to separate it from the film. And I wanted to use only the objects in the room to express a sense of mystery.

This may seem strange but the two central characters stayed with me after the film and I'm trying to work out why that happened. Are you able to speculate as to what will become of these characters?

I don't know, but I don't believe Yusuf will come back to this village, and I believe he will find a solution but this will be a good place for him. For Mahmut, I believe nothing will change, as I personally don't think much changes in life. If this was a Hollywood film I am sure they would contact each other, but I don't want to alter the reality of things.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan: The action man
Nuri Bilge Ceylan writes and directs his award-winning films. He also produces, sells, edits and stars in them. Jonathan Romney meets the hardest-working man in Turkish showbusiness
Published: 11 February 2007
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has always put a lot of himself into his films - right down to his flat, his car and his Puffa jacket. In interviews, he might play down the autobiographical aspect to his work, but the clues are there. His first feature Kasaba (aka The Small Town, 1997) is about a rural community like the one Ceylan grew up in; its follow-up Clouds of May (1999) is about a director returning to his home town to make a film about it. His third film Uzak (Distant) put Ceylan on the world map when it won the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes in 2003. It's about a photographer living in Istanbul - like Ceylan, who maintains a parallel career in photography - and his cousin from the country, played by the director's own cousin. Uzak's hero wears Ceylan's jacket, drives his Smart car and lives in a flat which was Ceylan's at the time (it's still his office). Perhaps these are just canny ways to reduce the props budget, but you can't help raising a sceptical eyebrow when Ceylan insists that his heroes shouldn't be mistaken for him.

Things are even closer to home in the extraordinary Climates, released this week. This time, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (pronounced "Bil-geh" and "Jey-lan") steps in front of the camera, together with his wife Ebru Ceylan, as an unmarried couple who separate after an explosive falling-out on holiday. At times, the Ceylans' presence together on screen leaves you feeling almost intrusive: a dinner scene early on, full of barely muted rancour, is guaranteed to make you grind your teeth (probably because you've been there yourself at least once). It's fiction, but you can't help wondering whether there's some domestic acting-out going on between the Ceylans: when Bahar and Isa worry about their age difference, there's no disguising the fact that Nuri really is 47, Ebru a decade younger. But ask the director whether the Ceylans are in any way portraying themselves, and you get much the same answer that most film-makers give: "Woody Allen acts in his films," he shrugs. "Maybe everybody thinks Woody Allen is really like that." (Oh, but everyone does.)

Ceylan has spiked his on-screen character with imperfections: his Isa is indecisive, dishonest, somewhat brutish. The director himself is a relaxed, affable man, saturnine and soft-spoken, whoserusty English can make his comments sound high-flown. Asked why there's such a strong continuity between his films, Ceylan says, "It's because of my soul, I think: there is an urge to tell the same kind of stories, the same kind of melancholy. I always want to make something entirely different, but it comes out as the same." As for Ceylan's apparently masochistic casting of himself as Isa, a man at once sympathetic and rebarbative, "I'm the kind of person who asks himself really cruel questions. I try to be as realistic as possible when I live these kinds of things. If someone does something bad to me, I don't blame them, I look at my own responsibility."

Asked why he and Ebru decided to act in Climates, Ceylan remains vague. "There are many reasons. I thought we could act these characters well. And like everybody, I wondered about myself, I wanted to see who I am and what I am. I was afraid of that, and if I'm afraid of anything, I go into it more, I push myself." Besides, it seemed to make the job of directing simpler. "Sometimes it's difficult to tell actors what you want if you're not sure. Knowing I was going to act made the writing easier. I didn't have to finalise the dialogue, I could handle it in the shooting. When I'm writing, I'm never sure of anything. People who are sure of everything seem to me a bit stupid, you know?" Ebru also played a big role in the writing process; she should have shared the script credit, Ceylan says, but declined.

There's a long tradition of male film-makers making lyrical, obsessive films about their real-life partners, but few have exposed their domestic life to conjecture quite as teasingly as Ceylan does in Climates. Still, the director insists that Climates is not about him and Ebru. "Of course, I have painful memories from many relationships - they left a mark on me, and those marks made me make this movie. But my relationship with my wife is not like this." The material for Climates, he says, came from other relationships, a previous marriage and the lives of friends.

Climates is arguably Ceylan's most introspective film yet, with a chamber-drama intensity to match Ingmar Bergman. But visually, it's also a sublimely crafted film. Not only does its High-Definition digital photography seem to expose its characters' emotions with forensic transparency (in an early close-up of Ebru as Bahar, the shadow of a frown warns us that something's about to snap), but also it offers an extremely striking essay on landscapes and weather. You might also recognise a Ceylan trademark, a moment when a character finds himself framed in a landscape that echoes his emotional state - notably, a shot of Isa standing on a bridge under looming clouds. There's a simple reason why Ceylan favours these images. "In real life, it happens to me all the time. When you're an introvert, you don't see anything. Then suddenly, you realise there's an atmosphere around us, a landscape and the sound of birds and suddenly you feel this mystical connection between yourself and the universe."

You can sample more of Ceylan's exteriors in his current photography exhibition at London's National Theatre. The pictures are part of a series he shot around Turkey on a digital camera, featuring street scenes, faces, rural panoramas, all given a formal twist by the Cinemascope format. At first glance they are exercises in stark poetic realism, but many, on further inspection, reveal a degree of manipulation, heightening echoes of Brueghel's mythically-inflected landscapes.

Ceylan was born in Istanbul in 1959, then moved at the age of two to the western province of Çanakkale, the inspiration for Kasaba. Returning to Istanbul at 10, he went on to study engineering there, then headed to the Himalayas to mull over his future, and decided that it lay in the military. Languishing in an army camp in Anatolia for a year and a half, he spent most of his time reading, until Roman Polanski's autobiography suddenly suggested a more promising vocation. As a result Ceylan came to London to learn film-making, although he seems to have spent most of his time devouring triple-bills at Kings Cross's much-missed art-palace the Scala.

By the time his third feature, Uzak, hit Cannes in 2003, his work already had the mature stylistic confidence that denotes a full-blown red-carpet auteur. I tried to interview him there that year, but it initially proved hard to pin him down to a meeting: the usual case, I assumed, of a film-maker caught up in the festival's media feeding frenzy. When I finally caught up with him, he explained what had been keeping him busy. He had been running up and down the Croisette personally handling the sales of his film, which he had also shot and produced himself. (He brought in another cameraman on Climates, although he edited it himself.)

Ceylan has been hailed by some as heading a renaissance in Turkish cinema, along with such names as his friend Zeki Demirkubuz, who made a mark with his Camus adaptation Fate, and Reha Erdem, whose Times and Winds - likely to reach the UK this year - is a vintage rural epic. Ceylan himself isn't convinced that there's a Turkish resurgence as such: "I'm not in a position to see it. But we are living in an era of communication, everyone is in better contact with the world, and being local is more difficult." Nevertheless, he certainly agrees that the international prominence of Turkey's literary Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk is giving the country's artists new confidence.

Unlike Pamuk, however, whose novel Snow shares an eerie ambience with the wintry last half-hour of Climates, Ceylan has not yet addressed the tensions in contemporary Turkey between the secular nation and Islam. Ceylan says, "In Turkey, I am a Westerner", and his particular terrain has been to depict the everyday angst of Istanbul's cosmopolitan intellectuals. But one day, he says, he'll probably have to address Turkey's social changes: "Yes, this kind of tension I also sometimes feel. Everybody is choosing their position and that makes the different positions sharper."

Both the Ceylans are extremely impressive on screen in Climates, but neither, Nuri says, has any plans to act in the future, in his films or anyone else's. He did, however, get one prestigious offer in the wake of Climates - to direct and star in a biopic of another Turkish screen icon, the late Kurdish director and actor Yilmaz Güney, best known for The Herd and Yol. He politely declined.

"Before I got a prize in Cannes, people in Turkey didn't pay me any attention at all - I was like a child for them, playing his own games. After that, they tried to put me someplace." He shrugs. "But where to put me?"

'Climates' is on general release; Climates: Turkey Cinemascope, National

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