Belonging opens with a voice-over delivering an admission of guilt, one coldly articulated by Onur (Çaglar Yalçinkaya), as he hastily divulges the details surrounding the murder of his lover’s mother. As Onur flies through the harrowing details of this crime’s inception, and its aftermath (how he met said lover, Pelin (Eylül Su Sapan), and quickly rejected her; their eventual reconciliation and volatile relationship; and finally, their plan to remove the domineering matriarch), topographical images of where each of these key scenes took place haunt the screen, usually with little-to-no action occuring in the foreground of each shot. Much like the opening sequence of James Benning’s Landscape Suicide, the desolate terrains of Burak Çevik’s film begin to impose themselves on the audience, with each shot lasting upwards of two to three minutes. Then, at about the halfway point of the film, things radically change in terms of framing and pacing.
Belonging slows to a crawl, and Çevik recontextualizes the story we’ve heard so far. We see Onur and Pelin’s meeting — fully dramatized, with the previous narration now gone — and recognize two social outcasts drawn together. The two waste the night away, talking about their personal lives and failed relationships — and are oblivious to the homicide that they will later organize together. This is a jarring, though ultimately ineffective aesthetical shift: once one understands Çevik’s intentions (to untangle the objective facts of this situation from the emotional manipulation with which film can provide such narratives), Belonging quickly runs out of ideas. The film ends by returning to Onur’s detached voice, trying to express some level of thematic closure by suggesting Pelin should be let off the hook, because she’s still just a child, matching the depiction we’ve been given in the film’s previous section. It’s a conclusion that aims for profundity — again, identifying how easily audiences can be manipulated — but it’s a dismayingly predictable endpoint for the film’s one compelling idea.
Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2019 | Dispatch 1.