Written and directed by the Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Climates charts the breakdown of a relationship between a middle-aged university professor Isa (played by Ceylan) and his younger girlfriend Bahar (the director’s real-life wife Ebru Ceylan), a TV art director. Unfolding over the course of three seasons - summer at an Aegean resort, autumn in rainy Istanbul, and winter in a remote, snow-covered region of Eastern Turkey near Mount Ararat - it’s a deeply personal work, suffused with melancholy.
‘Ordinary stories of ordinary people’, is how Ceylan has described his cinema, and those who saw the filmmaker’s superb previous study of alienated masculinity Uzak (Distant) will be familiar with the contemplative, pared-down style of Climates. Dialogue is secondary to the high-definition digital video images and the expressive soundtrack, with aural motifs such as dogs barking connecting all three sections of the film.
Ceylan focuses on his characters’ faces and gestures and on the silences in their interactions, thus allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks of the slender story. Shot in a continuous take, a rough sex scene between Isa and a former partner, Serap (Nasan Kesal), in which the man forces the female into submission, is both disconcerting and farcically amusing. Elsewhere, a beach sequence of Ebru daydreaming that she is being buried alive crystallises her anxieties regarding herself and Isa. Meanwhile Ceylan’s droll humour is evident here in an amusing running gag about Isa’s neck-ache.
The emotional estrangement between the central couple is conveyed through impressively precise compositions, their states-of-mind symbolised by the surrounding landscapes and changing weather conditions. And Ceylan’s understated central performance is no flattering self-portrait: his Isa may have a wry charm, but he’s also self-pitying, patronising, and emotionally cruel. Recommended.