Sunday, September 17, 2006

2006 TIFF—Beş Vakit / Times and Winds

You children, who sleep blanketed in warm straw
Or inbetween hummocks of sunlit grass
In the dappled shade of summer pine needles
Or dreaming on sunsoaked stone
Taking refuge in the narcolepsy of innocence

You children, who work hard, learn hard,
While moons scudded with clouds stare with watchful eyes,
While constellations cycle and clouds somersault
While the sea swallows whole the endless self-limitations of shorelines and men
You children, slumber through the last days of your innocence
And dream of killing your fathers.

Beware the murders you wish for.
Beware the folly that will break your heart.

I owe both Doug Cummings and J. Robert Parks a great big thank you for encouraging me to catch a screening of Reha Erdem's Beş Vakit / Times and Winds, a Turkish entry in this year's TIFF that I knew nothing about. It has ended up being one of my favorites from the festival, perhaps all the more so for having come to me indirectly. Its poignant beauty rendered through colloquial circumstance framed by weather and bracketed by landscape (stunningly photographed by Florent Herry) left me weeping by film's end, face in my hands, griefstricken for all the sweet and tender children in the world harshly disciplined by stern fathers and the serrated edge of life's fugacity. I was truly quite unexpectedly overcome and a bit embarrassed at my inability to stop crying, especially when I noticed the fellow a few seats away from me grinning at me, as if I were a fool. Who the hell was he to mock my grief? Well, it ended up that he was the director, Reha Erdem, who obviously got his jollies off watching me become devastated by the film's sumptuous photography and aching themes of childhood lost. If he hadn't created such a beautiful film, I might have punched him in the nose.

As Dimitri Eipides synopsizes for the TIFF capsule: "Times and Winds is a finely etched portrait of remote village life in Turkey composed of small, meticulously observed moments of great beauty, melancholy and lyricism. …Erdem has a profound and innately poetic sense of the rhythmic passing of time, with each day in the village divided into five by the calls to prayer. … Despite the arduous living conditions and the domestic indignities that the young ones endure, Times and Winds is not a depressing film, for within each heartbreak lies the potential for self-discovery and redemption."

J. Robert Parks observes at Framing Device: "The movie opens with a night shot of the village lights, but it's framed in such a way that it focuses on the dark water and sky behind it. In fact, the numerous landscape shots frequently combine land, sea, and sky in ways I haven't seen before, and the way the light is captured at all times of day is breathtaking. The pans across the hills become luminous meditations that provoke awe and wonder. The long shots of the minaret set against the sky and water are simply spectacular."

Set in the Turkish village of Kozlu with its cobbled uneven streets and embroidered pillowcases, Times and Winds celebrates the poet's task of "shepherding the winds" and reminds me yet again why I favor foreign films that allow audiences glimpses into pastoral villages and lifestyles well on the decline. Such films may end up being the final record left of a particular texture of rural upbringing.

Cross-posted at Twitch, where Opus writes up his reactions and objections to the film, though he concludes: "[A]s a pure mood piece laced through with introspective thoughts concerning the roles of fathers, and the terrible consequences when they abuse their authority, Times and Winds can be quite powerful and haunting."

09/25/06 UPDATE: Doug Cummings writes at Film Journey that the film "isn't a point-by-point narrative so much as a continuing evolution of character and perspective" whose "vivid setting and sublime compositions give it a timeless, magisterial resonance."

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