Bal (Honey)

Bal (aka Honey) is the concluding part of Semih Kaplanoglu’s, Yusuf Trilogy but has the earliest setting and it is the first to screen in the UK.  There is every chance that this gem would have slipped through the net also had the Berlin International Film Festival not awarded it the Golden Bear last year.


The handful of high profile indie filmmakers whose world premieres constitute an event have increasingly waited for Cannes during recent years leaving Berlin’s top four status at risk.  Berlin has responded by ploughing the remoter regions of the indie sector for profound cinema of cultural significance for a particular region but whose sincerity and philosophical scope is such that it reaches out to a wider audience.  It will be an uphill battle for Berlin to satisfy today’s headline grabbing commentators with this approach and, sadly, commercial factors may mean that it proves to be little more than a transition en route to it finding a new identity or slipping below the radar.


In the meantime, the Golden Bear still carries sufficient cultural cachet to influence perceptions long term.  Bal’s award barely registered in the film press and then principally for cynical critics to cite it as another example of Berlin’s continuing decline.  Now things are changing, Semih Kaplanoglu is discussed alongside Cannes heavy weight, Nuri Bilge Ceylan as part of an exciting Turkish new wave, which does not mean to say that there has been a re- think, a new mature reflection, but that more discerning voices are coming to the fore.


Bal is a very superior example of the resolutely independent but engaging work now making its mark at Berlin.  Set in the forests beside Turkey’s Black Sea coastline, there is something of the ethereal in the vast area of tightly compressed towering trees.  Compounded here by father & son, Yakup & Yusuf, negotiating the transverse spaces with a hawk and mule in tow, it resembles the self-contained world of an ancient mythological painting.  Yakup tends to his beehives, passes on life lessons and there is a sense that we are intruding on age-old rituals and intimate traditions, a very private existence not intended for our eyes.


Yusuf has a debilitating stammer that severely restricts communication with all except his father.  There is a sad inevitability to his being the outsider at school where he watches the other children in the playground through a class window.  A much coveted teacher’s special badge awarded for excellence in reading takes on a special significance; a symbol of peer acceptance, parental approval, almost a passport to wider society.


All takes place under the shadow of a pre-credits scene where we see Yakup fall from a high.  We later discover that a bad season for honey had resulted in his search for new locations on treacherous treetops further afield.  He would not return, Yusuf would lose his haven, his retreat from the world.  How would he cope?


Strong is the sense of nature continuing regardless, an uncertain future for a local community that has remained unchanged for years and a fading connection with an abstract but profound understanding that might fall into the broad heading of spiritual but remains beyond our grasp.


This is tender, mediative and discerning filmmaking capturing a moment of crisis, a turning point but in the quietest possible manner.  With a leisurely pace, beautiful cinematography (Baris Ozbicer) and gentle performances, we momentarily forget the harsher realities waiting around the corner and gaze on calmly as we might on a Sunday afternoon in an art gallery carelessly allowing Claude to lure us into one of his mythological cialis in singaporelowest price cialis 20mgyasmin generic name yasmin recall yasmin online kaufen yasmin pharmacy


A natural successor to Satyajit Ray’s rites of passage masterpiece, Pather Panchali in its integrity, freshness and candour and the sheer wide-eyed charm of its lead character (Bora Altas).

July 15th, 2011 - admin

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