Faces of the State:
Secularism and Public Life in Turkey
by Yael Navaro-Yashin
Sometimes you can be too close to see the obvious. Which may or may not be the case here in which the director casts himself and his real life wife in the lead roles of a story about a very chilly romance. Isa (Nuri Bilge Ceylan), a middle aged professor pretty much ignores his younger girlfriend Bahar (Ebru Ceylan) except when there's something to criticize. During a vacation on the Aegean coast, while he busies himself photographing ruins for his classroom and master's thesis, it seems she came to a decision to end the relationship before he had a chance to suggest a separation. They agree to go their own ways.
Back home in Istanbul after their split, Isa takes up with Serap (Nazan Kesal), an ex-girlfriend, appearing on her doorstep one night after work. She goes for her old flame, apparently relishing the idea that he's still involved with Bahar, but what ensues registers as yet another strained and temporary connection that has nothing to do with feelings.
Isa's fellow professor and office mate at the university talks of his impending marriage, contrasting his relationship with a woman to Isa's. Though Isa hasn't been keen on the idea of marriage, the issue works on him and he begins to feel a need again for Bahar, learns that she's gone to work on a film in the frigid East, and pays her a visit. The reunion appears to produce opposing impulses, mostly on Bahar's part, leaving us to guess about the reasons for her decisions. Isa's attempt to win back his lady's affections doesn't win much of ours.
Caylan's movie does indeed cover a range of "Climates" in a geographical sense, but its utter minimalism leaves one with the feeling, mostly, of frosty dispassion -- in the characters of the people and their ability to communicate. These people are ice floes that touch as they're carried together by currents, only to drift apart as the rocks alter their course. Brrr, put on your overcoat.