Friday, September 30, 2011

Movie of
the Month:
Part 31

I recently
the follow-
ing DVD
for Video Librarian, and thought the results were worth sharing.

BAL (HONEY) [***1/2]
(Semih Kaplanoğlu, Turkey, 2010, 103 mins.)

In the conclusion to Semih Kaplanoğlu's Yusuf Trilogy (Yum-
and Süt), a farming family faces the end of their way of life.

centers on future poet Yusuf Özbek (Bora Altas, excellent),
a diminutive six-year-old with a stammer and a jingling, Charlie
Chaplin-like walk who lives in a mountain village in northern Tur-
key where he enjoys a close relationship with his beekeeper fath-
er, Yakup (Erdal Besikçioglu), who teaches him about the region-
al flora, and a perfunctory one with his mother, Zehra (Tülin Öz-
en), who does more care-taking and housekeeping than socializ-
ing and teaching (the tinkling comes from the bells he wears).

Kaplanoğlu proceeds through Yusuf's days at school, where he
doesn't quite fit in, and at home, where he helps Yakup to collect
honey from the tall trees. Once, according to his father, Yusuf ate
too much at one time, and it made him dizzy. The writer/direct-
or divulges such details slowly and organically, concentrating
on quiet moments rather than exposition-heavy sequences.

Through this patient technique, he reveals that Yusuf has trouble
reading, that Yakup is an epileptic, and that the family is Muslim.

As the honey supply diminishes, Yakup has to travel farther
away, on his own, to collect the substance that provides for his
family, leaving his anxious wife and son to fend for themselv-
es. This dilemma fuels the film's primary source of tension.

Throughout, Kaplanoglu exhibits an excellent eye for com-
position, and Baris Özbicer’s cinematography brings out the
rich greens and browns of Yusuf’s surroundings. The scene
in which the moon's reflection pulsates in a bucket of water
is particularly magical. Bal won the top prize, the Golden
Bear, at 2010's Berlin Film Festival. Highly recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 30: Dioses

Endnote: Slightly revised from the origin-
al text. Image of Bora Altas from indieWIRE.