Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Logic of Space

A couple of weeks back now, I watched Three Monkeys by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. I have been pretty crazy about Ceylan since I watched his first film Kasaba (Small Town) back to back with a making of film that showed him making the film with a crew of two and sometimes three people and with only a turtle and a leaf blower as his sole means to create some seriously transcendent onscreen sequences. I then watched all of his films back to back. Not long after he released the sublime Iklimer (Climates). Then, a not so long wait and Ceylan releases his first 'thriller', Uc Mayman (Three Monkeys). Certain elements in this film - particularly the haunting of the elder son and the ways that the surrounding light, air, space, place make incursions into the lives of the characters caught in webs of their own lies and desires - are modestly executed but precise and pointed in their ability to take the viewer to a place beyond the world of the film. While he reverently talks of the influences of Kiarostami, Tarkovsky and Ozu, his films, perhaps because they are so defiantly personal - he frequently, shoots, edits, produces and acts as well as writing and directing - are like nothing else. Even while his films reveal the austerity of his influences, they suddenly revel in the physical, the sexual, the comedic or the terrifying in ways that never betray the intense, unflinching quiet of his approach. But it is always the sense of place, the landscapes through which the characters move, that reveal so much of his narratives.
"In my films the landscapes connect the characters to a sense of something cosmic. I try to recapture those moments in life where you suddenly feel that connection to a wider universe." Nuri Bilge Ceylan, The List, Issue 571
In his anamorphic photographs, his emphasis on space and place, seems perfectly expressed as he both captures the expansive and austere beauty he sees, but also distorts and twists the way that we look at it, both in terms of simple perspective, and in terms of the heightened artificiality of the light.

all photos above - Nuri Bilge Ceylan from his website

I recently read a great interview with filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (here is another great interview with him), director of Man Push Cart, Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo in which he talks about the importance of place in his filmmaking process, from conception to completion. He says:
Unless you’re doing a space movie or something it makes no sense to sit alone in a room and write. You go to the real location—you write. You go the real location—you rewrite. You go to the real location—you reconceive. You meet the real people, you add them into your script, you change them a little for your fictional means. You cast, either from the real location or outside the real location, and based on those people you rewrite again.
In the films in my head, I am definitely not one for interiors. Place and landscape always play a dominant role in the things I have and hope to make. I spoke with a friend recently about a film we are hoping to shoot late next year. We have been having difficulties in financing because (among other things) where we want to shoot it falls between all the funding gaps, being based in one of the territories and not being eligible for 'remote' financing. A friend said, why not just set it here in Melbourne. My heart dropped. Although it's a fine question - if the story is the thing, why shouldn't it be transportable - I knew that for some inexplicable reason, it had to be filmed in and around the landscapes that I had first conceived it taking place in. It is not that these landscapes are impossibly singular or that this story could not take place elsewhere. It is simply that this landscape has a floating quality that I can't imagine really understanding until I see it unfolding in a fictional cinematic landscape. That will help me to understand it. It is also that the landscape itself has always been so stitched into the experience of the film that I don't know what the film is without it. More often than not, a script for me comes from a place or an experience of a landscape. When I move through a place or see photographs of a location, stories come. The characters never exist prior to that.

No comments: