The great Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns to our screens (for the first time since his Palme d’Or winning exploits at Cannes four years ago) with another stunning example of a master at work. And while his meditative style in still in full force, this is a far more conversational affair than his most recent works.
The Wild Pear Tree details a chapter in the lives of the Karasu family. The eldest child Sinan returns home to Çan after graduating university in the hope of finding a publisher for his first literary work, only to find his father, Idris, in debt – and the family uncertain how to handle it. As Sinan attempts to find a champion for his ‘meta-novel’ detailing the existence of those in his hometown, the sins of the father slowly catch up with him to stifle his dream. Among the central themes of the film is Sinan’s struggle with the gate-keepers of his success – he is constantly at odds with those in a position to help him as they try to censor, reshape, or reinterpret his masterpiece. One has to wonder if this isn’t an analogy for Ceylan and the impressions of his own works in his home country?
Ceylan, much like his character Sinan, has shown through films such as Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Winter Sleep that he values the identity of a place, and that they are vital to the stories he tells. The landscapes, local cultures and landmarks centre the story in these spaces; we begin to feel a part of that world, and from there the story can grow, with the film posing questions on art, religion and family.
Dogu Demirkol anchors the films with his lead performance, bringing a troubled but compassionate dimension to the role, while Murat Cemcir gives a superb turn as the sympathetic debtor Idris. It’s their conversations on the facets of society (and a breath-taking sequence of Sinan and two Imams in discussion as they wander the hills) that add a warmth and accessibility to The Wild Pear Tree that some may have found lacking in his other films. And, as we’ve come to expect from Ceeylan’s films – whether shooting the sun-drenched hills of the Çanakkale Province or the bleak, cold urban environments – the cinematography is never less than exemplary.
There can be few better ways for a cinefile to end the year than by seeing The Wild Pear Tree; for me, the works of Ceylan are on a par with those of Koreeda, Haneke or anyone else making films today, and this is among his best yet. Ceylan’s films are nowhere near as widely seen as they should be – doesn’t this seem like the perfect time to fix that?Find your cinema and book tickets