Distant (Turkey; 110 min.)

directed by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
starring: Muzaffer Özdemir; Emin Toprak; Zuhal Gencer Erkaya

Bruce says: "Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir) and Yusuf (Emin Toprak ) both hail from the same mountain village. Mahmut, who is the elder by at least a dozen years, is a self-made man. He is educated, a successful photographer in both an artistic and commercial sense, and lives in an upper middle class section of Istanbul. Yusuf recently became unemployed when the local factory laid off one thousand workers, probably most of the population of his village and surrounding areas. He has come to Istanbul to stay with Mahmut while he tries to find employment in the shipping industry, having fantasies of seeing the world and making lots of money. Yusuf is uncultured, uneducated and uncouth.

"Yusuf arrives in Istanbul on a snowy day. Mahmut keeps him waiting in the lobby of the building for hours, having forgotten that he was arriving. Yusuf has smelly feet, smokes in the apartment and never picks up after himself. Mahmut follows Yusuf around turning out all the lights that Yusuf absentmindedly leaves on. Within several days, Mahmut is beside himself. All his anal retentive standards have been rudely violated.

"With Mahmut, something’s missing. In the American army it’s called 'retired while on active duty.' Physically present, mentally elsewhere. He is numb and adrift. He simply cannot relate to anyone – his ex-wife, his ailing mother, his sister, his mistress and, least of all, Yusuf. Were this another type of film, I might have guessed that Mahmut had contracted with the devil and had lost his soul in the process.

"In the course of a week, Mahmut’s former wife announces she is moving to Canada with her new husband probably never to return to Turkey; his mother is hospitalized with emergency surgery; his mistress leaves his apartment in haste after what appears to be a tryst involving sexual dysfunction. Meanwhile, Yusuf has no luck whatsoever in finding employment. It is inevitable that he will become the victim of Mahmut’s frustrations.

"The film has a slow pace and languid style. There are many close-ups. The actors supposedly are nonprofessionals. For Yusuf, that is not a negative. His unrefined nature was adequately captured by Emin Toprak. Mahmut is a different story. Absence of feeling is very difficult to portray convincingly. A more accomplished actor could have subtly conveyed what was going on in Mahmut’s mind. Muzaffer Ozdemir fell short in this respect, in moments that were needed to carry the film. The two actors shared the Best Actor Award at Cannes 2003. DISTANT won Grand Prize of the Jury.

"The true star of DISTANT is the city. Istanbul in the snow is glorious. I had never envisioned such a thing. Another surprise was how European most of the areas of Istanbul appeared in the film, not at all the stereotypic exotic and Mid-Eastern Istanbul stamped in my mind. 3 Cats"

Michael says: "This Turkish drama plays like a sober, languid, dramatic version of Neil Simon’s THE ODD COUPLE. Mahmut lives in Istanbul, after escaping a youth in a far off village. He has forged himself a career as a photographer, has been married and divorced, and spends his time watching TV, joining friends occasionally at a local hangout, and spending weekly trysts with his mistress. Along comes Yusuf, his cousin from the village. The local factory recently laid off 1000 workers, most likely the entire village population and surrounding areas. Yusuf is Oscar to Mahmut’s Felix. Yusuf is coarse, a bit of a slob, and socially inept. Unlike Oscar, he has dreams of finding a job on a ship and traveling to exotic places. Mahmut is anal retentive, set in his ways, and most importantly, emotionally disconnected from the people around him. He has strong feelings for his ex-wife, but cannot bring himself to voice them. When his mother is hospitalized, he manages to go to her to help out, but cannot muster much emotion for her plight. With Yusuf, as days becomes weeks and no job is present, his distance ultimately explodes into resentment as he is forced to share his cool, efficient space with a perceived force of chaos. Prior to Yusuf’s arrival, the only blip in Mahmut’s existence is the field mouse residing in his kitchen, around which he has laid sticky tape in a fruitless effort to catch the offender.

"Eventually, Yusuf becomes the mouse. His fragile ego bruised by the harsh rebuffing he faces when Mahmut explodes. There is a powerful scene involving said mouse about ¾ of the way through the film that paints us a sad pictures of Yusuf’s plight. Shortly thereafter, Mahmut faces his own emotional crossroads, and just at the moment he might reach out to his friend, it is too late.

"Writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan paints a masterful portrait of a man cut off from the rest of the world. The film moves slowly, the camera lingering on lonely vistas, the mens’ lost faces, and scenes of quiet alienation. There is a realism reminiscent of some dogma work, no incidental music, little elaborate lighting, but the film is beautifully shot, with the gorgeous snow-covered Istanbul as a backdrop.

"The two leads were non-professional actors, and they shared the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Unlike Bruce, I thought Muzaffer Ozdemir was very strong as Mahmut, his tired grizzled face effectively conveying his distance, and his outburst at Yusuf believable. As Yusuf, Emin Toprak is great as the socially awkward, immature youth in a man’s body. 4 cats"

Barbara says: "This film had some beautiful shots of the city of Istanbul but I found it to be pretty bleak. It never really came together. There were a lot of scenes of the main characters looking forlorn or lost in thought or maybe they just didn’t know what to do."