October 16, 2006
Nuri Bilge Ceylan elegantly channels the spirit and self-reflexivity of Atom Egoyan's Calendar and Roberto Rossellini's seminal Voyage in Italy (that in turn, paved the way for Michelangelo Antonioni's psychological landscape films) to create an equally sublime, serenely composed, and understatedly bittersweet chronicle of the dissolution of a relationship through the austerity and desolation of the landscape in his latest film Climates. As the film begins, a middle-aged university instructor and doctoral candidate named Isa (Nuri Bilge Ceylan), en route to a summer holiday in the idyllic Aegean coast with his younger lover, a television art director named Bahar (Ebru Ceylan), deliberatively shoots a series of photographs of ancient ruins for possible use in a class lecture, oblivious to his traveling companion's noticeable discomfort and tedium over his latest distractive side trip (a figurative myopia that would subsequently be manifested in Bahar's reckless, symbolic act of blindness during a motorcycle ride), her sense of profound desolation and estrangement momentarily betrayed by the eruption of tears that also escape the self-absorbed Isa's regard. The metaphoric image of the troubled couple standing amidst architectural ruins serves as an insightful prefiguration of their seemingly inevitable separation, a distance that was made all the more insurmountable by Isa's act of infidelity with his former lover, Serap (Nazan Kesal) during one of Bahar's recent, on location shooting trips away from Istanbul. In hindsight, Isa's unfinished thesis also reveals his self-inflicted pattern of irresolution, emotional cruelty (a sadistic streak that is also revealed through his act of forced intimacy with a resistant Serap) , and inability to commit, an emotional paralysis that has perhaps even sublimated into a physical affliction (through a chronic, stiff neck running gag that recalls the pollution-induced malady of Tsai Ming-liang's The River). Charting the indefinable trajectory of Isa's restlessness, alienation, and melancholy through the climatic and geographic changes that reflect the interiority of Isa's unrequited - and indefinable - longing, Climates exquisitely (and indelibly) maps a spare, elegiac, and achingly intimate meditation on the ephemeral seasons of the human heart.