Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review | A Youthful Awakening to Mother Nature’s Laws in a Turkish Village

Movie Review

Times and Winds (2006)

Times and Winds
Kino International
Ozkan Ozen, left, and Ali Bey Kayali in “Times and Winds.”
January 11, 2008
A Youthful Awakening to Mother Nature’s Laws in a Turkish Village

By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published: January 11, 2008

Livestock far outnumber humans in “Times and Winds,” Reha Erdem’s transporting vision of life in a mountain village in northwest Turkey as seen through the eyes of three children on the verge of adolescence. Make no mistake: The movie, for all its majestic shots of the rocky landscape and of the moon skittering behind clouds, is not a lump-in-your-throat portrait of the noble poor living in harmony with the elements.

Even in this remote hamlet untouched by television, human nature is what it is. The two boys, the best friends Omer (Ozkan Ozen) and Yakup (Ali Bey Kayali), and one girl, Yildiz (Elit Iscan), whose day-to-day lives the movie observes with an affectionate detachment, giggle and point at the spectacle of animals mating.

Within their families there is an ugly heritage of generational strife. Because Omer’s strict, ailing father (Bulent Emin Yarar), the village imam, prefers Omer’s younger brother, Omer devoutly wishes his father dead.

While his parents are asleep, he steals into their room and opens a window over their bed, hoping the night air will aggravate his father’s severe respiratory problems. He surreptitiously pulls apart and empties the capsules prescribed for his father’s condition. He even traps a poisonous scorpion he intends to unleash on his father, but it dies.

There is a scene of a frustrated farmer beating a horse and another of an old man attacking his son for stealing nuts from a tree. Yildiz is treated like a servant by her mother. Yakup has a secret infatuation with the village teacher (Selma Ergec), a beautiful young woman whom the villagers reward with regular deliveries of milk and bread. The boy is crushed when he comes upon his father peeping at her through a window of her house. The scene of the son spying on the father spying on the woman rubs in the fact that this is no Garden of Eden.

The teacher’s lessons about the Earth’s rotation, light, heat and the water cycle reflect the film’s focus on the intersection of daily life with the laws of nature. Its absence of high drama allows such primary forces to become its main subject. The film is organized around the five daily calls to Islamic prayer, chronologically reversed so that night is followed by evening, then afternoon, noon and dawn. As the sun rises at the end of the movie, this rearrangement of time simultaneously evokes the village’s unchanging way of life and the blind expectations of preadolescent children facing adulthood.

As in Iranian films that focus on childhood, the soundtrack of “Times and Winds” is filled with the stirrings of nature — the wind rushing through trees, animal sounds and bird song from near and far. Augmenting this pastoral symphony are excerpts from several pieces by Arvo Pärt (including the “Te Deum”) that add texture and gravity to the film. The music — lush but emotionally neutral and at times static — conjures eternal things.

For all its beauty, though, you couldn’t describe “Times and Winds” as uplifting, and its attitude toward childhood is not sentimental in the manner of similarly minimalist Iranian movies. Its vision of people in thrall to religious ritual and living at the mercy of nature may be poetic, but it is no idyll. The serpent has done its dirty work.

TIMES AND WINDS

Opens in Manhattan on Friday.

Written (in Turkish, with English subtitles), directed and edited by Reha Erdem; director of photography, Florent Herry; art director, Omer Atay; produced by Mr. Atay; released by Kino International. At the Anthology Film Archives, 32-34 Second Avenue, at Second Street, East Village. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Ozkan Ozen (Omer), Ali Bey Kayali (Yakup), Elit Iscan (Yildiz), Bulent Emin Yarar (Imam), Taner Birsel (Zekeriya), Yigit Ozsener (Yusuf) and Selma Ergec (Teacher).

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