Written by Burak Özdemir
Performed by Burak Özdemir See more »
Another Slice of Contemporary Angst in İstanbul
Ela (Defne Halman) lives a prosperous life in middle-class İstanbul. A conceptual artist by profession, she has an apparently solicitous partner Can (Hakan Çimenser), while her daughter Nil (Gizem Akman) studies industrial design in Ankara.
But all is not well with her life. Cooped up in a split-level house and unable to adjust to the rhythms of modern life - her inability to manage electrical gadgets is palpable - Ela suffers a crisis of confidence. In one sequence she strips naked in front of the mirror, her shoulders slumped, her face expressionless, as if unable to fathom what to do next.
Yet perhaps her disillusion is not entirely self-induced. Can turns out not to be quite the ideal partner she had hoped, while Nil expresses a wish to leave her university course and take archeology instead, in rebellion against her parents' wishes. Add to that the fact that no one wants to buy Ela's conceptual art, which makes her doubt whether what she is pursuing is of any value or not.
Stylistically speaking, Aslı Özge's film has been inspired by Nuri Bilge Ceylan's work in its use of long takes, often devoid of dialogue, in which visual imagery assumes more significance. The number of prison metaphors is quite startling - bars across windows, gates, and the like; while Ela's house, with its wrought-iron staircases that make a dull clang whenever anyone climbs up and down them, reinforces the prison-like atmosphere. Another recurring image - an aerial view of the staircase - shows human beings quite literally being swallowed up by the architecture.
Özge is also very good at depicting the ways in which individuals find it impossible to communicate meaningfully with one another. In at least two memorable sequences, she shows Ela and Can with two of their close friends in a café and a bar; they are ranged across the frame in line, their faces turned towards the camera, suggesting a desire to talk at one another rather than with one another.
Yet despite the slight derivativeness in style, HAYATBOYU has an integrity of its own. It focuses on the dilemma faced by many middle-aged bourgeois women, of whether to sustain the family unit at the risk of perpetual unhappiness, or to branch out on their own into a life devoid of certainty. The ending remains inconclusive, referring once again to Ela's issues with electrical gadgets.
The film has certain longueurs, when it seems as if nothing much happens, but this is deliberate - a means by which Özge can communicate the sterility of her protagonist's existence.
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