Saturday, 23 July 2011

bal (w,&d. kaplanoglu; w. köksal)

Bal, which translates as Honey, won a significant prize at the last Berlin film festival. It was interesting to note the amount of Germans who worked on this film, presumably in part due to the German finance deals which got it made. The film itself tells the relatively straightforward story of a young, unconfident boy, Yusuf, whose father one day vanishes when off on a long trip in search of honey. There's an ecological aspect to his fate: the reason he's been forced to search further afield is that the bees are vanishing from his usual stamping grounds. The suspense element is generated by the question of whether Yusuf's dad is going to come back or not, something the opening sequence rather gives away.

Bal is beautifully observed and filmed; Yusuf's rural world is at the very margins of Europe, a place where mobile phones and the internet have yet to make an appearance. It's a rural community, but one which does not seem to be particularly poor: the family are seen to be eating well and live in a spacious house on the edge of their village. The reasons for Yusuf's reticence at school, where he aspires but fails to be one of the better readers, overcome by a stutter whenever the moment comes, are never really explored: he's just the way he is. At one point, when looking for his father, he's taken by his mother to a fair, where people have arrived in their cars to dance and trade: for a second the audience is given a glimpse of the wider world to which Yusuf is connected, with traditions and commercial possibilities his parents' straightforward life never normally touches.

The advantages of their life seem obvious: their home would make for a hippy dream house, tucking away in steep wooded hills. The disadvantages are, however, also clear: if something happens to you and you're a long way from home, no-one's going to come and help. Whether there's a more subtle commentary on Turkish life at work I couldn't really tell. Bal may be a beautiful film, but it's also so inoffensive it makes you wonder what the filmmakers, financiers et al were trying to achieve.

No comments: