DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
TOWN, THE (KASABA) (director/writer: Nuri Bilge Ceylan; screenwriter: story by Emin Ceylon; cinematographer: Nuri Bilge Ceylan; editor: Ayhan Ergürsel; music: Ali Kayaci; cast: Cihat Bütün, Emin Ceylon, Fatma Ceylon, Muzaffer Özdemir, Havva Saglam, Emin Toprak; Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; Artificial Eye; 1997-Turkey-in Turkish with English subtitles)

"Outstanding feature debut."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The title Kasaba means small town. Turkish director-writer Nuri Bilge Ceylan's ("Clouds of May"/"Climates"/"Distant") outstanding feature debut is an autobiographical work shot in black and white, with non-professional actors and members of his own family. It's a rambling but accomplished work following a schoolgirl and her younger brother through the four seasons, who live in an impoverished rural small town where not much happens. We see the world through the eyes of these children.

The lyrical film opens during a snowy winter, in a schoolroom, where the teacher conveys the message of community responsibility and loyalty to country being of utmost importance. It follows in spring to a cemetery, in the middle of a corn field, where the 11-year-old girl picks plums and her curious 7-year-old brother learns that a turtle will die if his shell is on the ground, since the turtle can't turn over on his own. On a summertime family picnic, extended family members talk at night as they sit by a camp fire in the woods and roast maize. They talk passionately about the past, the high price of a haircut, civilization, poverty, war and their fears. The grand-dad talks proudly of being a British POW during the First World War, while the sibling's dad, the only educated man in the village, talks about his admiration for Alexander the Great as a soldier and that his education was accomplished because he was driven to learn despite the hardships of getting an education. Also at the picnic is an alienated single cousin, who has become an idler since discharged from his military obligation and sneers at work, war and society rules. The fall scene is uneventful but serene dream-like one, as the family returns home and the girl stands by the peaceful stream that runs by her house.

The muted but observant film has these ordinary folks trying to make sense of their lives, and envisions life in a small town and what are the aspirations of the people; especially, in regards to relating to their nationality and their place in the world.

It won the Caligari Prize at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 1/13/2012       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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