This is a movie within movie, which is almost recursive, i.e., the movie inside looks like director Ceylan's previous movie, Kasaba. It is about the movie director, Muzaffer, going back to ...
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This is a movie within movie, which is almost recursive, i.e., the movie inside looks like director Ceylan's previous movie, Kasaba. It is about the movie director, Muzaffer, going back to his hometown to make a movie using a cast of local people. While Muzaffer is around, his mother complains about simple health problems, his father is in a legal fight against the government for his land, his cousin gets out of his job to help Muzaffer who promises him to find a job in Istanbul, and his little cousin Ali tries to carry an egg in his pocket for 40 days so that he'll get the watch of his dreams. In the meantime, they get to form the cast for Muzaffer's movie as well. Written by
Brilliant Evocation of a World Undergoing Profound Change
Reading other evaluations of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's MAYIS SIKINTISI (CLOUDS OF MAY), we see some familiar adjectives ("slight," "poetic," "atmospheric") that are frequently invoked without any real attempt to engage with the film's major preoccupations.
Set in the northwest village of Yenice in Çanakkale province (the district where the battle of Gallipoli was fought in 1915), Ceylan focuses on Emin (played by the director's father M. Emin Ceylan), a landowner of some standing, who is trying to fight the government's plan to cut down some trees on his land that have stood for over seven decades. The echoes of Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD are obvious: like the earlier play, the trees in MAYIS SIKINTISI serve as a metaphor for an enduring rural life under threat from industrialization. In the pursuit of immediate financial gain, whole tracts of land are being sacrificed to the bulldozer. Emin spends most of his time learning the niceties of the law so as to fight the government on their own terms; if he can prove them wrong, then he will have emerged successful.
Yet Ceylan reveals the irony of Emin's position, as his obsession with the law blinds him to the real truths of life contained in the rural landscape - the elements, the trees, mountains and foliage, all of which have been there for centuries and will outlast all the protagonists. We are made aware of its importance through the soundtrack, which sacrifices dialogue to sound - birds cheeping, the breeze rustling through the trees, the sound of footfall on the wooded ground. Humans are intimately connected to the universe; once they become aware of their kinship with all living creatures, including the birds, bees, insects and flowers, they lose their obsession with materialism.
MAYIS SIKINTISI introduces a second level of irony through the presence of Emin's son Muzaffer (Muzaffer Özdemir), who like Ceylan himself is trying to make a film set in his hometown using his family as actors. The film-within-a-film structure enables Ceylan to criticize his own profession; the obsession with shot- construction, light, sound and the "correct" delivery of lines renders Muzaffer as myopic as his father. Although making a film about nature, he is impervious to it. What matters more to him are mundane details such as the cost of film stock, or ensuring that he can work together with his İstanbul-based friend Sadık (Sadık İncesu).
Within this complex format Ceylan makes some more pragmatic points about the advantages and disadvantages of rural life. Although the local community provides a source of support for Emin and his family, it can prove restricting. This is especially true for Saffet (Emin Toprak) who has failed once more to enter university and has to spend his days laboring in a factory. He desperately wants to leave his hometown and try his chances in İstanbul; but as Muzaffer informs him, the opportunities therein are limited. City and country remain forever separate; those who migrate in search of their fortunes often end up disillusioned.
Stylistically speaking, MAYIS SIKINTISI unfolds slowly with the emphasis placed on image rather than narrative. Viewers should focus on the mise-en-scene - the relationship of sound to vision, and the placement of characters within the frame - rather than expecting a story to unfold. By such means they should be able to understand Ceylan's enduring preoccupation with the elemental world, and how we might continue to appreciate it despite our apparent obsession with personal and social advancement.
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