Two decades on now and Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan has become something of a genre unto himself. To those that concern themselves with film festivals and prestigey world cinema, his name carries with it a check list of thematic interests and formal predilections. Lord knows there will be some long takes, some deep-focus cataloging of Turkey’s superlative natural beauty, a lot of Dostoevskian philosophizing, and petty disputes between the inert intellectual class and the despondent proletariat. None of that changes with The Wild Pear Tree; in fact, this film furthers one of Ceylan’s new hallmarks: an indulgent runtime that, in the case of this film, is entirely unearned. One of the joys of Ceylan’s previous film, Palme d’Or-winner Winter Sleep, was taking in the precision of the dialogue (the translation of which was excellent, as is the case with this one), each exchange a carefully constructed bundle of coded passive aggression and venomous subtext.
Wild Pear Tree operates on a similar principle, but provides us with a baldly loathsome protagonist, as played by Aydın Doğu Demirkol, who smirks his way through a 188-minute runtime that sees him on the screen almost constantly. Demirkol plays a recent college grad who returns to his hometown intending to write a (seemingly exploitative) novel and reconnect with a father he holds deep disdain for. The film proceeds to play-out as a glacially-paced, high-minded Garden State, bluntly spelling out obvious metaphor, delivering its characters to saccharine redemption, and forcing the audience to spend unbearable amounts of time with a contemptuous lead. Let us hope that Ceylan’s depictions of ineffectual artistry aren’t predictive of his future work.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | Issue 1.