Uzak (film)


In Orhan Pamuk’s book Istanbul, he talks about the Turkish concept of huzun: a sense of yearning, emptiness, or loss. He ponders whether this comes from the growing diluting of the traditional culture that is looked down upon by a modern, more European culture. He says this is why there is this cloud of nostalgia that befalls on Istanbul. Not only is the city a shadow of its former glory, the culture and spirit of its people is huzun.

Uzak, in a lot of ways is a cinematic portrayal of Pamuk's Istanbul. The central character Mahmut is a photographer who has a seemingly glamorous job but is actually quite boring: he takes photos of tiles for a large tile company. He has been doing that for 10 years. He lives in a nice apartment in Istanbul, and has a group of intellectual photography friends that lament the death of their art.

Yusuf comes from "the village": the place Mahmut left long ago to transform into an Instalbulite. Yusuf talks of the closing down of the factory and a thousand people losing their jobs back home. In Yusuf’s eyes, Mahmut leads a comfortable life: nice big apartment, interesting work and enough money to regularly partake in various forms of entertainment.

But Mahmut is huzun: divorced and lonely, he has no relationship that matters and no one to care for. Yusuf’s emergence triggers something in him but it’s not enough to raise himself out of his disconnectedness. While Yusuf struggles to find a job in Istanbul, Mahmut frets about the trivial annoyances of living with another person. As Yusuf asks for help indirectly, Mahmut pretends to be busy. In frustration, Yusuf tells him: “this city has changed you.”

Like a hungry child filling his belly up with lollies, Mahmut indulges in pornography and various sexual encounters. But when he’s alone, tears roll down his eyes.

The film is set in Istanbul and Anatolia in winter. Covered in snow, it makes the places seem particularly nostalgic. The film has stunning cinematography, signature of Ceylan's work, and continuously shows off the raw beauty of Istanbul and the Anatolia.

Uzak is translated as distant. And that is what the film is ultimately about: distance from humanity, from care and affection for others, often forgotten in the argie bargie of the human struggle.

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