The Wild Pear Tree

Reviewed by John Porter

Sunday night brought Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest movie 'The Wild Pear Tree’ to the Alhambra Cinema. A deceptively simple surface narrative follows recent graduate Sinan as he returns to his hometown and his subsequent attempts to get his first book into print. His father Idris is a dreamer who has lost his way in gambling, and his mother Asuman is taking baby-sitting jobs to make ends meet. On Sinan's missions around town to find funding for his work we also meet grandparents, old school friends, older flames, writers, Imams, dogs, sheep, and statues, all occupying their own positions in the fabric of the community.

Over three hours Sinan moves between these figures and their stories, which usually hinge upon a philosophical core. The many different viewpoints in the conversations, to which he is often adversarial and provocative, collect as tiny vignettes whose ultimate importance only becomes apparent when regarded as a whole. This mirrors the book Sinan is trying to publish, the aspiring author being unwilling to simplify his work into a single phrase, describing it as a 'meta-book' where each tale when viewed apart is inconsequential, yet when seen together give an impression of the 'life-culture' he feels in the region.

The ideas of wisdom which slowly accumulate through the dialogue, and the puzzles they present remain unresolved, the topics which form the frameworks of the conversations seemingly chosen for their endless debatability. This ensures no universal resolution is possible, only personal truths. Even the situations present no easy answers, many of which concern the relationship between Sinan and Idris. Father constantly tests son, provoking him to make judgements, whether intentionally on the matter of who might have stolen money from Sinan's pocket, or unintentionally when he hides a sheet of paper which Sinan assumes is racing coupons when it is actually a poster of his 'lost' dog. Ceylan is concerned with painting life as the accumulation of many colours and moments, a learning experience where meaning is both as simple and as complex as the image of a man digging a well where there is no water.

Ceylan's subtleties in his narrative style continue into his visuals. He consistently uses very shallow focus, singling out characters amidst their blurred surroundings. Distancing them from each other in this way emphasises the separateness of the people: Each is on their own path, and all opinions are personal, despite Sinan's best efforts to exert his own views onto them. Individuality and distinction between ideas are also seen in the occasional pans and cuts mid-flow of conversation that follow the stares of the characters. At one point after Sinan runs into a girl from his past under a tree, he looks up into the branches, whereupon the camera follows and lingers there with him while the wind moves the leaves. At another point in a bookshop a successful writer is describing to Sinan how he sees beauty everywhere. His eyes flit to the door. We cut to his point of view and watch a girl enter. Later the published writer's eyes return to the door, we again follow to find nobody there. His eyes acknowledge this and we continue the debate. These silent asides are scattered thinly enough across the movie’s runtime to appear distinct from the usually objective standpoint of the camera, Ceylan again showing enough restraint and belief in his style to allow it to talk less and say more. After dream sequences, an endless shot following characters walking down a dirt road, and a stint in the military, Sinan returns to find that almost nobody read his book, not even his mother to whom he inscribed a personal copy. The only one who did, 'some parts of it twice', is his, 'Loser', father who has now found peace as a shepherd.

Those who require conventional conclusions may be disappointed, but taken as yet another moment in an ever evolving collage, the final scene between Sinan and Idris shines, giving no black/white answers, just the continual unfolding of beliefs and maturations into the generations to come. Sometimes this is enough.