by John P. McCarthy
posted August 1, 2008 10:00 AM
Changeable weather is nothing compared to the immutability of a human being
Being in love with a narcissist is ultimately boring. Witnessing self-obsession up close might be exciting initially, but eventually the spectacle fails to divert. Once the frisson evaporates, narcissists are impossible to endure; their glaring faults can't be ignored or excused. The viewer experiences something akin to this watching the protagonist of Climates -- a middle-aged professor named Isa, played by writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Fortunately, Ceylan provides compensatory distractions. His carefully structured film is visually and aurally beautiful and amounts to a devastating portrait of a lonely relationship and a chillingly selfish man.
What does Isa bring to the party? He's handsome enough and has a good job teaching architecture at a university in Istanbul. But he's lazy (unable to finish his thesis), perpetually dissatisfied with the weather, immature and prone to stalking. To coin an oxymoron, he's a quiet boor. And this negative judgment has little to do with the rough sex he has with a friend's companion, although that ongoing dalliance is a major sticking point between Isa and his younger girlfriend, Bahar, a television art director portrayed by Ceylan's real-life wife, Minnie Driver look-a-like Ebru Ceylan. We meet the pair in the ruins of a temple near an Aegean resort in southwestern Turkey; we leave them during a snowstorm in the east. In between, they've broken up, and he's retreated further into his apathetic, loathsome self. The film goes from the extremes of summer heat to winter cold, but all the while Isa remains tepid toward Bahar and everyone he encounters. It's unclear whether his sneakily superficial, passive-aggressive personality is supposed to have any broader cultural meaning concerning gender relations.
Climates is spare regarding dialogue and plot, lush when it comes to faces, light and topography. Ceylan's background as an engineer and photographer are in evidence. The sound design is remarkably precise -- you'll hear a cigarette burn and a nut being chewed as if for the first time -- and the high-def cinematography is fabulous both in close-ups and long shots. The tightly rolled film contains no melodramatic filler, and Ceylan's clear-eyed performance is nothing short of brave.
Cast: Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Nazan Kesal, Mehmet Eryilmaz, Arif Asci and Can Ozbatur
Director/Screenwriter: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Producer: Zeynep Ozbatur
Genre: Drama; Turkish-language, subtitled
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 97 min.
Release date: October 27