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A Criticism of Indifference in Nuri Bilge Ceylan Style
KUF (MOLD) is a slow-moving drama shot in the style associated with Nuri Bilge Ceylan, with lots of lengthy shots in which very little actually happens. We observe characters moving within the frame, or talking to one another, but there is little else to focus on. For director Ali Aydin this is a deliberate technique designed to focus attention on characters in relation to their environment.
Basri (Ercan Kesal) is a widower close to retirement living in a rural area of the Republic of Turkey. An employee of the state railway company, he spends much of his time contemplating the past - especially the death of his son, who passed away eighteen years previously during anti-government riots. However his son's remains have never been found. His co-employee Cemil (Tansu Bicer) spends much of his time taunting Basri, but meets a grisly fate in the end. Basri also has to endure regular interrogation from an officious police commissioner (Muhammet Uzuner).
Within this straightforward story-line director Aydin makes some stinging criticisms of contemporary Turkish society. Basri is shown walking along the railway tracks; one of them comes to a dead end, a fitting visual metaphor for the ways in which the bureaucracy continually frustrates Basri's attempts to find out what happened to his son. In spits of writing several petitions, Basri has no further information; nor is he likely to find any in an office whose employees treat him with undisguised contempt.
Life in this rural backwater is far from pleasant. Although Cemil is portrayed as a fundamentally unsympathetic character, director Aydin also emphasizes the meaninglessness of his life, which comprises some basic menial duties on the railway, evenings spent at the local kiraathane drinking tea, and the occasional fling with a prostitute. With little or no means of passing the time, it's not surprising that Cemil should want to taunt Basri.
The title KUF refers not only to the mold gathering on Basri's son's corpse, as it festers in an unmarked grave somewhere in Istanbul, but also describes life in general - where bureaucracies do nothing, where lack of investment means that the railways are in a continual state of disrepair, and where well-intentioned people like Basri simply fester away in rural obscurity. No one, it seems, wants to disrupt the status quo.
In the end Basri finds out some information about his son and travels to Istanbul. Yet Aydin suggests that this news is far from revelatory; on the contrary, it condemns Basri to a life of further misery and isolation.
KUF is an uncomfortable movie; difficult to sit through yet unstinting in its indictments of Turkish society today. For anyone who believed in the so-called "Turkish Spring" of a few years ago, it offers a painful corrective to their assumptions.
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