Peruvian & Turkish
Both underpinned soulfully
By Bijaya Jena
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has eluded one of the two most brilliant films of recent times for reasons unknown. Perhaps in art, democracy does not work. I would like to mention these two brilliant films which are not to be missed by cinema lovers anywhere in the world. If you think cinema is more than mere entertainment, then these two films will elevate your soul.
Peruvian director Javier Fuentes-Leon's directorial debut Undertow set in a Peruvian fishing village is not a ghost story or a gay love story but a universal story about love, longing and guilt, told in a sublime manner. Miguel, a happily married man becomes the muse of a rich painter, Santiago and falls in love with him. Even after Santiago drowns in the sea, Miguel is haunted by his spirit which is the result of his guilt. He is tossed between his love for Santiago and his obligations towards his wife.
Miguel liberates the spirit of his lover Santiago by giving him a proper Christian burial at the face of getting ridiculed by the conservative village community, estrangement from his wife and child. Fuentes uses magic realism to convey Miguel's feelings. This surreal drama boasts of subtle performances of its three lead characters and poetic visuals of the serene village, captured by the cinematographer Mauricio Vidal.
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's masterpiece, Once Upon A Time in Anatolia, is a dark film with wry humor and is a tad bit long. It is brilliantly photographed by Tiryaki. The major chunk of the film has vast dark patches of Anatolia steppe in contrast with shafts of light emanating from the car head lights.The play of light and shadow and witty conversations fill the film. The film does not have background music -- rather the rustling of leaves, howl of a dog and screeching sound of the vehicles lend the atmosphere a palpable tension.
A prosecutor, a doctor, two murderers and several police men set out in a motorcade of cars at dusk to find the corpse which the killers do not remember where they have buried as the barren landscape looks the same everywhere. This exhausted group of people drive through the wee hours of the night till they stop over at the local mayor's house for a meal.The mayor discusses about raising fund for a new mortuary in the village and suddenly the electricity goes off, indicating the urgency of investing in electricity than a mortuary by the state. And the mayor's angelic daughter appears surreal to the fatigued men whose face is lit up with a small kerosene lamp. The men return in the morning after finding the corpse. The prosecutor shares a story about a woman who predicts her own death after her child birth. And later we realize that she was the wife of the prosecutor.
Ceylan masterfully delivers the feelings of the dead man's wife in silence and the angst of her little boy by throwing a stone on the accused who is shattered by this action. It's not a film about the murder or the mystery but a keen observation of life, the legal and medical system of Turkey which has been awaiting its accession to the European Union.
The article first appeared in Huffington Post and has been reproduced with special permission by the author-actor-director.