Saturday, 30 August 2008

times and winds (d. reha erdem)

Mr Blue recommended we go and see this of a Friday night. At first he said it was Russian, which threw me (I have been hoping to catch The Banishment, which it looks like I've missed, in part because I was in Russia the week it came out.) In fact Times and Winds is a Turkish film, and its title, Bes Vakit, sounds rather more alluring in the original. Mr Blue observed that we've done well with Turkish cinema this year, so, despite the fact I find myself in a soporific late Summer torpor, I geared up for a couple of hours of what most reviews have described as a beautiful but very slow moving film.

Times and Winds is beautiful, and it doesn't hurry along at a great pace. Which is exactly as it should be. Although, inevitably, it takes a while to get into its rhythm, in the end the film is compelling. It tells the story of two boys, and a girl and another boy, who live in a small Turkish village with views of a sea which we never visit, and I would have been reasonably happy to remain in their world, the world of the film, all night.

It always seems to me that if the director makes a film which uses kids well, he or she is onto a winner. From Truffaut to Lynn Ramsey to Rob Reiner to Spielberg to... The list can go on and on. Erdem can add himself to this list, perhaps at the top of it, because his film pulls off something remarkable. Which is that he returns the viewer to child-time, and child-significance. How much do you remember being eleven, twelve or thirteen? Probably a hell of a lot, if you put your mind to it, or if your mind is lead that way. In Erdem's film, time seems to float. The seasons change but we never really know how much time has passed between incidents. It's as though time is not a sequential project, as it becomes with adulthood, but a deep pool, changing all the time and also threatening never to change at all. 'Child-significance', to coin a phrase, is that strange period before responsibility is foisted upon us, a time when even the smallest of moments can have a terrible power. It's easy to forget the restlessness and anxiety of childhood, the extremism of the world's beauty and cruelty at that age. Erdem, in his portrayal of Yakup, Yildiz and Omer, recreates that way of thinking which we adults have now lost, and will never return to.

Erdem's film captures all this with a lilting wistfulness. The film is punctuated by moments where the children it features are framed in artificial poses, caught up in nature or a decayed house, looking as though they could be dead. These moments have nothing to do with the narrative; perhaps they are an indication of the proximity and fear of death, or perhaps they are a small paean to the childhood that the characters will soon be losing. There is one moment, where the young girl, Yildiz, faints after thinking she might have inadvertently injured or killed her baby sibling, which echoes these stills, and all the vulnerability of childhood rises up to confront us. But for every moment of fear or anger, there follows a scene of comedy, reflecting the extremes of childhood, where life feels either catastrophic or a delirious blessing.

The director was, as it happens, present at the Renoir to give a Q&A after the screening. He revealed that the film had been shot on HD, and that part of its remarkable beauty was down to the way in which the footage was manipulated in post-production. He struggled gamely with his English, but his quiet-spoken meandering seemed in sharp contrast to the clear-sightedness of his film. Asked how long Times and Winds took to film, he came up with no comprehensible answer. Perhaps this was appropriate, and there should be no way of knowing. Times and Winds feels like it belongs to a netherland, a lost vision of a world where children grow up without the paraphernalia of modern life, and all the richer for it.

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