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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 ... See full summary »
Mahmut, a 40 year old independent photographer, is a "village boy made good" at least professionally in the big city - Istanbul in this case. After his wife leaves him, he falls into an existential crisis. Then comes his cousin Yusuf, who left his native village after a local factory closed down, effectively unemploying over half the local men. He looks to Istanbul for salvation: a job on board a ship sailing abroad, at once exciting and crucial to supporting his family in the desperately poor village. The distance between the two men is apparent at once, and becomes increasingly pronounced. Whereas Mahmut is adusted to big city life and suffers from many of its neuroses, Yusuf is a lonely, excentric country worker with annoying nervous and hygienic habits, and a sick mother back home he must somehow support. This intimate drama was filmed in the director's apartment in Istanbul, using all his furniture, appliances, rooms, car and so on as the film's props. The actor playing Yusuf is ... Written by
In an interview, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan says that he actually didn't have any idea of shooting Yusuf's outdoor scenes in a snowy Istanbul. However, Ceylan woke up one day and saw that the city was covered in snow, so he decided to shoot those scenes that day. See more »
Distant is the story of two alienated people and their intercrossed lives that end up illustrating something about the fate of mankind in a downsizing world. The basic premise is that of a country bumpkin, Yusuf, with whose arrival at his cousin Mahmut's house begins a dance of discomfiture between the two men who have become distanced from their inner selves each in a separate way. Yusuf's removal from his feeding grounds is not enough to cast a pall over his mood, but his naïve, insecure optimism is quick to turn him into a permanent cripple in the frigid atmosphere of Istanbul when it is denied all nourishment from Mahmut whose sophistication is a casebook recipe for alienation. Mahmut is a photographer who has labored hard to make it in the big city and by Yusuf's arrival completely turned himself over to his profession.
The women in Mahmut's life are transits, too, in one way or another: his ex-wife, now married again, has come to terms with the fact that she was left infertile by an abortion, which still vexes Mahmut's conscience, and now she and her new husband have decided to move to a new country, possibly never to return. His mother is ill and dying, but Mahmut puts off going to see her in the hospital until three quarters into the movie when a surgery has left her wailing with pain and bemoaning her fate like almost every other character in this picture. The motif of ailing mothers is one of the crucial ties between the cousins, for Yusuf has one too. In contrast to Mahmut's neglectful attitude, the very first thing Yusuf does in Istanbul is to call his own mother. Nonetheless, neither man may hope to effect much change in the women from whom they are separated by physical or emotional distance. Not only can they relate to the relationships in their lives, but also neither man can form a new relationship throughout the movie, with Yusuf experiencing repeated rejections from one employer after another and both men never mustering the courage to formalize a relationship with the attractive women who pass through their lives. Both transits, the cousins find that their lives are peopled by the relationships of most transitory kind.
Like a symphony, the film plays around with the various meanings of its title in a virtuoso directorial performance by NB Ceylan, who has made a career out of enshrining Tarkovsky into the landscape of Turkish cinema. The influence of Tarkovsky here is felt not only in Mahmut's private screenings of Solaris, and the movie's decidedly meticulous cinematography, but also in the mysterious deployment of free indirect imagery (imagery of a character's thoughts), and a mystical signpost at the end of the movie that recalls Tarkovsky's Nostalghia. Interestingly, Distant won three Palme D'Ors at the Cannes film festival, where it was judged by no other than Steven Soderberg who has remade Solaris, that seminal masterpiece of Tarkovsky.
Unlike Tarkovsky and even Soderberg, however, Ceylan ends his film at a note that is nonetheless captivating for having been obvious for a very long time. The cousins drive each other to the brink and finally, disillusioned, Yusuf moves out and disappears from Mahmut's life. The story unfolds like a classic parable with readily identifiable and human elements that offset its "alien" features, such as its Turkish setting, and makes this film a universal and poignant tale of lives held at a devastating distance.
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