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Nuri Bilge Ceylan’ın metamorfozu: Koza

Blog
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’ın metamorfozu: Koza

25.03.2024

Text: Merdan Çaba Geçer - Illustration: Naz Tansel

Metamorphosis of Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Cocoon

“Ceylan’s film addresses aging and death, depicting humans who are rendered speechless by grief amidst the mournful nature, portraying what Benjamin termed as “natural history;” that is, it deals with the inevitable workings of time on a natural creature, namely humans, with processes of continuous decay, dissolution, and ultimately, extinction. The mortality of such a fate is presented in the images of a cat’s corpse and a bird’s corpse in water. These images foreshadow and warn us of what will happen to all of us. It is precisely this concept of “natural history” and the “life cycle” as the “death cycle” that gives Ceylan’s film its enchanting title: Cocoon.” -Nuri Bilge Ceylan Sineması: Türkiyeli Bir Sinemacının Küresel Hayal Gücü (Bülent Diken, Graeme Gilloch, Craig Hammond)

Cocoon. The place where metamorphosis occurs, is the stage of transformation. The layer where the caterpillar, having completed its growth, undergoes body changes during the transition to the adult form. The journey of becoming a silkworm, fulfilling a potential. A harbinger of the evolution of an artist who has become synonymous with the art of photography, to one of the most important filmmakers of our time…

Nuri Bilge Ceylan emerges from his cocoon, rolling up his sleeves to start working on his first film marks back in 1993, corresponding to the years when he abandoned his cinema education. This was a time when digital cameras were not yet widespread, making short film production much more challenging and expensive, and when short film festivals in the country could be counted on two hands. Despite his technical and aesthetic accumulation, a young artist who could not muster the courage to shoot his first film decided “to put an end to the tortures he inflicted on himself” by taking his 35mm films and second-hand camera to his hometown, Çanakkale. Assuming the role of director, personally engaging in its cinematography,  editing and assigning roles to family members, this modest short film became a turning point in our cinema history as the first Turkish production selected for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Each short film is pregnant with clues about its creator’s future works. Today, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s cinema has become synonymous with photographic aesthetics, and he actively engages in production as a photographer as well. In Koza, he starts with a sequence of a dozen old photographs, nodding both to the beginning of cinema history and his past. Subsequently, we immerse ourselves in still but striking black and white shot sequences and seemingly independent yet poetic images: trees rustling in the wind, a dead bird, an elderly couple conveying distance between them, a mysterious child, a decaying corpse of a cat, dispersing clouds… Described in its official synopsis as the story of an elderly couple attempting to reunite but seemingly failing, the film delves into themes of life and death, youth and old age, beauty and horror -much like life itself, intertwined. The accompanying visuals are so ambiguous in meaning, and the images so dense, that the resulting narrative takes on a form entirely reliant on the spectator’s interpretation. Cocoon becomes a cycle of both life and death; depending on where the spectator chooses to look from…

The film, which gives the first signs of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s cinema with its pastoral frames, minimalist structure, and insistence on creating meaning through visuals, is now devoid of dialogues, unlike his more current works that prominently feature dialogue. Instead, it relies on what could be described as an exaggerated sound design. Perhaps due to technical limitations, we do not hear a single word, yet even in his first cinematic attempt, Ceylan effectively conveys the existential anguish, alienation, melancholy, mortality, and the state of being together yet alone.

From the compositions to the music, narrative language to the themes it addresses, just as the influence of Andrei Tarkovsky is strongly felt in Cocoon, a film where the director’s deep respect for him is known, a filmmaker that has made a tremendous impact searching for his voice resonated with many artists producing short film nationally and internationally, inspiring them over time. Although Ceylan refers to his film as a “hopeless attempt” when looking back, it has become an example for cinema and even led many filmmakers to imitate it. Moreover, by laying the groundwork for the Provincial Trilogy (The Small Town, Clouds of May, Distant), Cocoon has a special place in our cinema history.

Cocoon, which marked the beginning of the journey for one of the most skillful filmmakers about 20 years ago, will be the guest of honor at the 20th Akbank Short Film Festival. It is undoubtedly a spectacle that anyone interested in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s cinema should not miss. Surely, it will continue to inspire many filmmakers who aspire to emerge from their cocoons…

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