PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am


Starring: Nuri Bilge Ceylan,

Ebru Ceylan, Nazan Kirilmis

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

The film: When Climates premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival, the focus fell mostly on how its middle-aged director and his young wife play a middle-aged university professor and his young wife whose mismatched marriage is slowly cast asunder by infidelity and personality clashes. Even after the Turkish film won the festival's Grand Jury prize, observers still pored over it, looking for evidence of art imitating life.

Climates is a brutally frank study of human relationships that lays bare the cynicism and longing that build and burn matrimonial bonds. This is brilliantly embodied in the brutish, chauvinistic Isa (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) and his long-suffering wife Bahar (Ebru Ceylan).

True to his style of long takes, extended head shots and minimal melodrama, Ceylan and Ebru revel in expressing their angst in the smallest facial gestures and then the sudden implosion of physical mayhem and emotional violence.

The film opens with the marriage seemingly over: the couple are on holiday in Antalya, weaving between tours of historical ruins (part of Isa's research) and sunbathing at the seaside. Tears stream down Bahar's face as she watches Isa walking through the ruins; there is a bubbling frisson as Isa imposes his domineering persona on his wife; and Bahar's nightmare of being buried alive in the sand by her husband.

As the pair part ways at the end of the trip, summer fades and winter sets in. Isa rekindles an affair with an old flame in the most disturbing way, and then sets off in a half-hearted attempt to get Bahar - who's working on a TV series in the snowy Anatolian countryside - to return. There's no closure and no romance, however; the weather and landscape change but the characters never do. Climates is a winning mix of great acting, poetic mise-en-scene and a tension that never yields even in the most mundane circumstances. Ceylan has delivered something that's beautiful in its despair.

The extras: Extensive interviews with the Ceylans and a record of their appearance at Cannes - the photo shoot, chats on the festival's TV programmes, the red-carpet moment. There's also a making-of feature, but the US release lacks the great photos Ceylan took of the Turkish landscape during the film's production.

The verdict: Filmmaking at its most intense, best of Ceylan's four films.