Nuri Bilge Ceylan Nuri Bilge Ceylan: "Clouds in May" - Calm, Penetrating Imagery

Poplars are felled, raw eggs are broken - Nuri Bilge Ceylan tells simple stories with beautiful imagery.


For fourty days, little Ali is to carry a raw egg with him without breaking it. Then he'll finally get the plastic musical watch he wants so much, the one that peeps the lambada. On around the thirtieth day, a woman in the Anatolian village presses a basket full of tomatoes in his hand - he's to bring them to his neighbor. A tomato tumbles to the ground, Ali bends over and the egg cracks and oozes. All hope fades from the child's face, and with a kick, he sends the angry red tomatoes down the hill.

Old Emin cares for a bit of land, his own private idyll. But his real pride and joy are the poplars - and the government will confiscate any bit of woods. So the people chop down the trees to hold onto the land. The light of spring glistens through the trees and falls to the warm eyes of the old man. The birds twitter.

Saffet slaves away in a factory. He wants to go to the city, to Istanbul. In two months, he earns as much money as a single spool of film costs. His cousin Muzaffer is a filmmaker, and he wants to capture the life of his parents and the mood of his village on film. Images like photographs, still, slow, nearly motionless, as if dimmed. A Chekovian atmosphere.

"Clouds in May" is a film about childhood, telling stories of real people and about filmmaking as the process of capturing the imagery of nature. It's the small things that stir director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who filmed in his home village - with his parents as parents, with amateurs instead of actors. It's a declaration of love for simplicity, naturalism and a reality from another, very slow time. No drama, no great stories, barely music, no quick paces, no bright optical tricks - and yet the feeling is transmitted that one is right there, in the middle of a field, as if one could be a part of this world.

It's as if a director had returned to the very beginnings of filmmaking. What's surprising is that what amounts to a true passage through time never becomes sentimental, embarrassing or succumbs to kitsch. "Clouds in May" is flooded with loving, almost ironic nostalgia and its distinguishing characteristics, the light through the leaves, a crawling turtle or the breaking of an egg. If the filmmaker had cut the first half of the film with the same rhythm that drives the rest of the soft reminiscence, the film as a whole would move along quickly enough to hold a broader audience. One will have to seek out "Clouds in May" in the repertory theaters. That's a shame, because the calm in the frequently filmed storm, well, the calm simply does one good.

"Mayis Sikintisi" ("Clouds in May"). Turkey, 2000. Written, directed, filmed and edited by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. With: M. Emin Ceylan, Muzaffer Özdemir, Fatma Ceylan, M. Emin Toprak, Muhammed Zimbaoglu and Sadik Incesu. 130 minutes.

Translated by David Hudson



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