'The Wild Pear Tree'
You need to know what you’re getting into when you settle down for a film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. First, you’re in for the long haul – his latest, ‘The Wild Pear Tree’, runs 188 minutes. Second, you’re going to be treated to a lot of talking. In some ways, his films serve as part lecture, part introspective journal entry, with characters delving into deep conversations about life, love, religion, philosophy and so on as they grapple with life’s many mysteries.
Some adore this kind of languid cinema, while others find it the embodiment of tedium. For those patient enough with the proceedings, there’s quite a lot on offer from this latest piece, which feels deserving of such pace rather than just pure indulgence. Ostensibly the story of a father and son, we’re treated to a look at a bucolic Turkey through the eyes of these dreamers, two men from a family who share far more than what sets them apart.
Sinan (Doğu Demirkol) is a young writer who has just finished school. In coming home, he finds that his schoolteacher father, Idris (a beautifully mustachioed Murat Cemcir), has degenerated further into his gambling habit and owes money all over town. This provides the film’s central collision between the impetuous idealism of youth and the crushing weight that such gambling holds in time, reflecting with both aspects the core of any artistic aspiration.
Along the way, we hear discussions about the hypocrisy of religion in regard to the notion of tithing, and the role of family and the responsibilities of community. One particularly engaging section sees Sinan confronting a local author whose writing may be considered more populist (and thus, to Sinan, middlebrow). The two banter to the point of argument.
For a movie coming out of modern Turkey, ‘The Wild Pear Tree’ has nothing in the way of overt political messaging, save for the universal calls for artists to be truthful to their art in contradiction to the many often small-minded and conservative views of what gets to count as culture.
‘The Wild Pear Tree’ is a sweeping film with profound ideas and moments of real grace, but its pace is sometimes needlessly slow and pondering. Still, you’re allowed to soak in the work over its running time the way few others allow you to do, getting a deep connection with the characters and their travails. Cutting 20 minutes or so may have culled some of the tangential asides without losing any of the story’s power, but that’s not what’s on offer here.
Instead, audiences are presented with a film that’s far more about ideas and emotional richness than in making it easy to consume. It’s the kind of thing that may well challenge your patience, but the fruits of this tree are truly savory and well worth putting in the effort to pluck.