Bucolic rhythms predominate in the moody Turkish coming-of-age film Times and Winds. Written and directed by Reha Erdem, this poignant story focuses on three children on the verge of adolescence, stuck in a village nestled between mountains and sea in northern Turkey where deep-rooted social custom and religious tradition perpetuate child abuse and neglect from generation to generation.
Omer (Ozkan Ozen) is a disappointment to his father, the learned but sickly village imam (Bülent Emin Yarar). The imam disapproves of Omer's fascination with the natural world, and consequently favors Omer's bookish younger brother. For his part, Omer detests everything about his father from his touch, to his voice, to his snore, to the noises he makes when he eats. Omer daydreams about patricide, and goes so far as to sabotage his father's medicine.
Omer's best friend Yakup (Ali Bey Kayali), caught in the grips of emerging sexuality, daydreams about his beautiful young teacher (Selma Ergeç). So spellbound is Yakup that when he successfully contrives to get her blood on his hand he leaves it unwashed until his father punishes him. Though Yakup doesn't wish to kill his father as Omer does, Yakup views his father as a weak and perverted small man.
Omer's cousin Yildiz (Elit Iscan) is also coming to resent her parents. Increasingly at odds with her mother who treats her like a domestic servant, Yildiz is confused and disgusted when she hears her parents having sex. When Yildiz's mother gives birth to a son whom she showers with attention, Yildiz's disaffection is complete.
Collectively, the young trio experience deep ennui. In the west, we might expect that these children on the verge of adolescence would begin to dream of moving away from their village, but either because they're still too young or because such mobility is even more fantastical to them than patricide, they don't express any desire to leave.
The plotting is minimalistic and dialogue is spare, with physical actions and reactions taking precedence over words. Erdem does not offer, nor do we need any inner monologue or subsequent verbalization to understand how Yildiz feels when she hears her parents having sex, or what Omer is thinking when he hears his father slurping soup, or how Yakup feels when he sees his father peeping in the schoolteacher's window. We understand because Erdem faithfully matches the perspective of the audience with that of the children. We're not invited to pity them so much as empathize with them.
Though Times and Winds suggests numerous influences, some probably accurately some probably fancifully, from Andrei Tarkovsky and Aleksandr Sokurov, to György Pálfi and Carlos Reygadas, and well beyond, I'll limit myself to noting three among the many in a bit more detail. The first, the breathtaking steadycam shots of cinematographer Floret Herry which seem deeply influenced by the work of Béla Tarr collaborator, cinematographer Gábor Medvigy. The second, the preference for music over words facilitated by the contemplative score of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt which is reminiscent of the films of Sergei Parajanov. The third, an homage to the neorealism of Iranian cinema suggested by the authentic locations, non-actors, natural lighting, minimal plot, and deep regard for ordinary contemporary life.
Times and Winds is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 scope, and has been anamorphically enhanced. Though the image generally looks better than average for a Kino release, edge enhancement halos and digital combing are frequently evident. There also appears to be inexplicable loss of focus at times, but this may be attributable to the filming not the DVD.
The 2.0 DD audio track is adequate. The Turkish dialogue and musical score are well balanced and suffer no noticeable dropouts or distortion. Optional English subtitles are well-translated, and appropriately sized, placed, and paced.
Extras are limited to a photo gallery of stills.
Times and Winds is not for everybody. At nearly two hours, the minimalist plot and sparse dialogue will bore some viewers, but for those who enjoy slow contemplative works of world cinema, Times and Winds is highly recommended.