Honey / Bal (Turkey-Germany)
By DEREK ELLEY
The final seg of self-styled Turkish auteur Semih Kaplanoglu's "Honey, Milk, Egg" trilogy (shot, natch, in reverse order) deals with its blank central character's childhood in the heavily wooded mountains of Rize province, northeast Turkey. The best-looking of the three and the most conventionally structured, this is still grindingly slow, content-light fare for card-carrying minimalists. Fest sidebars and Euro pubcaster slots loom.
With new d.p. Baris Ozbicer on board, Kaplanoglu appears to have discovered the visual merits of narrow depth of field and foreground framing devices, especially in the many schoolroom scenes and home interiors centered on its lonely protag, 6-year-old Yusuf (Bora Altas). Tyke's dad, Yakup (Erdal Besikcioglu), is a beekeeper who works deep in the forest; his mom, Zehra (Tulin Ozen), works on a tea plantation.
Shamed at school by his stutter, Yusuf takes pleasure in accompanying Dad on his honey rounds, finding the forest a place of mystery. When his father goes off alone in search of more bees, Yusuf feels isolated and retreats further into his own world.
More info about the small community's life -- and especially its religious/devotional background -- is in the pic's press materials than ever reaches the screen. Dialogue is at a premium throughout, Kaplanoglu typically holds fixed shots way beyond their usefulness, and music is rigorously avoided in attempting to sketch the kid's sense of wonder and inquiry.
As with "Egg" and "Milk," the pic's biggest flaw is that the viewer has no idea what the main characters are thinking or feeling and therefore tunes out emotionally at an early stage. The real star of the picture is writer-director Kaplanoglu -- which would be OK if he had anything to share with auds apart from auteurist mannerisms.
Tech package is fine.
A Kaplan Film Prod. (Turkey)/Heimatfilm (Germany) production, in association with ZDF, Arte. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Semih Kaplanoglu. Co-producers, Johannes Rexin, Bettina Brokemper. Directed by Semih Kaplanoglu. Screenplay, Kaplanoglu, Orcun Koksal.
With: Bora Altas, Erdal Besikcioglu, Tulin Ozen.
Camera (color), Baris Ozbicer; editors, Ayhan Ergursel, Kaplanoglu, S. Hande Guneri; art director, Naz Erayda; sound (Dolby Digital), Matthias Haeb; associate producer, Alexander Bohr. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 16, 2010. Running time: 104 MIN.