‘The young should always criticise the old. It’s how we progress’ Idris Karasu (Murat Cemcir) ruefully says late on in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest three hour rumination on the nature of life and family. The recipient of this sage advice, his moping graduate son Sinan (Dogu Demirkol), has by this point fallen out with pretty much everyone in his village on returning from college and done something entirely unforgivable to his father in the pursuit of publishing his first ‘nove'l’. Actually a book of short stories, we never get to find out exactly what it’s about but safe to say it’s indulgent tosh, built entirely on exploiting his upbringing. But then, that’s the problem with the youth isn’t it. They always know better.
If you caught the director’s previous opus, Winter Sleep (an arse numbing eight minutes longer than this one), you will know what to expect here in terms of style. Dialogue and characters rule here and if reading subtitles remotely gives you cause for concern, this is not the movie for you. Conversations unfold at a leisurely pace and silences are there for a reason. Once again this a movie that you should settle back into and just luxuriate in the fact that more or less nothing is actually happening. But it’s happening in a way that will carry heavy resonance with anyone who has wanted to escape their roots and be something else. Which is pretty much all of us.
Sinan is an insufferable ass but he is one we can relate to only too well. Pulled back to a world he believes is now beneath him, his youthful arrogance blinds him to the sacrifices made by his parents in order to ensure he can be in the position he is in. The echoes of unfulfilled dreams are scattered all around his home village - as he meets people who have moved on but not left, Sinan struggles to reconcile his new world with the old. A chance encounter with an old flame is shot beautifully - we see his reactions when she is speaking and vice-versa, the two are at the same time awkward and intimate, words heavy with the years they haven’t shared. But this is no simple love story, the director is way too good for that. Sinan is soon off antagonising the village elders as he shuffles through, vainly (in both senses) attempting to fund his novel publishing.
The Wild Pear Tree continues Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s run of making visually arresting but also incredibly dense, dialogue heavy movies. There is humour and warmth in his storytelling and Sinan’s character arc is marvellous to behold. There are endless depths to be plumbed here, especially if you’ve been in Sinan’s position. The runtime is well earned, there is not a single unnecessary scene here and the Turkish landscape is at once bleak and stunningly beautiful.