Times and Winds Review
There’s little in the way of narrative in Times and Winds’ depiction of three children growing in a remote Turkish mountain village, rather the film attempts to capture the totality of the experience - the inner conflicts and turmoil as well as the external battles within families and between different generations. Aligned to all this, there is consideration of the implications of community, nationality, spirituality, mortality and existence, of being a part of the wider world. Evidently those are big concepts to grasp hold of and place within a film that’s little over 100 minutes long, but director Reha Erdem seems to not only have a mastery of the familiar arthouse cinema techniques traditionally used to examine these ideas, but also have a deep understanding of those elements and their importance and influence in determining the direction of young lives beginning to grasp the significance of the world around them.
In spite of the differences of customs, location and beliefs then, the experiences of Ömer (Ozkan Ozen), Yakup (Ali Bey Kayali) and Yildiz (Elit Iscan) will still strike a familiar chord with the viewer since those concepts are universal. In its attempt to cast an expansive look at the important factors that make up our lives, Tides and Winds then becomes a film of contrasts and extremes – of love and hatred, of the individual and the community, of religion and nationality. None of those opposing concepts are of course mutually exclusive, and the film manages to consider the complexity of these ideas through the simplest of means, almost completely within the overarching umbrella of family connections. It’s there is the generational conflict between fathers and sons in Ömer’s deep and seemingly irrational hatred for his father, a priest, an Imam, who seems to care deeply for his family and look after them. Capturing some sense of the complexity of those family ties, in one movement Ömer can pull a blanket over his sleeping younger brother for warmth and, in the next movement, open a window to the cold winds that he hopes will kill his sleeping father who is ill. While Yakup and Yildiz have their own issues to deal with that will eventually see an end to childhood innocence, it’s the influence of their fathers, two brothers who are dominated by their older father into ploughing the stony land and building a protective wall around it, that is to have just as important an influence over the direction of their lives.
Such conflicts within families do not arise out of nowhere but must in some way be connected with the society and environment in which they exist, and the director applies just as much care and attention to his depiction of the community in which they live, capturing the beauty of the land as well as the harsh conditions under which they have to work to survive and the deep bond that is consequently formed from this close relationship. Even within that, Erdem recognises the complexity of that relationship and existence of layers within it and manages to find a way to express it with something of the pastoral quality of Pagnol as well as delving into the spiritual realm of Tarkovsky and finding a level somewhere in-between that has echoes of a Kiarostami perspective of the world, or, if you like, lies somewhere between the elegiac poetry of Sokurov and the earthy exuberance for life of Kusturica.
Those are all exalted names to keep company with and as such questions will arise - much as they do with Carlos Reygadas and Erdem’s fellow Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan - as to whether this is arthouse pastiche or the genuine article. Certainly the structure and themes all very much suggest the typical techniques and tropes of arthouse cinema. There is little sense of any conventional narrative structure other than the large overarching framework of Time itself aligned to the Islamic times of prayer, the film broken down into the parts of the day - Night, Evening, Afternoon, Noon, Morning (even though the events do not take place over a single day) - their order, for any number of reasons which the viewer is free to speculate upon, significantly reversed from their traditional order. Inserted into the imagery then are still-life tableaux – though perhaps the French term nature morte is more appropriate in this case – which feel excessively formal amidst the naturalism elsewhere, and it’s all accompanied by the obligatory score drawn from the works of Avro Pärt.
Whether there is enough originality within such an arrangement the viewer is free to decide for themselves, but with little more to go on than Times and Winds itself, it would seem to be a genuine attempt to express those vital elements that are a part of his characters lives. In it the director attempts to depict the colours and contrasts, the tactility and the textures of that world, its light and shade, life and death, times and winds, sound and fury – the nature of people and nature itself. You can see symbolism in the trees and the rocks that jut out of the earth, in the mystery of a solar eclipse or in a pair of animals copulating in a field, or you can take those things on face value for what they are, for they speak both of the world around us and of its spiritual dimension, and Erdem depicts them with the vision of a master.
Times and Winds is released in the UK by Artificial Eye. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, in PAL format, and is encoded for Region 2.
Pleasingly, for a film that relies to a large extent on its visual imagery in its use of light and colour, the transfer provided here is almost perfect. The original 2.35:1 aspect ratio is preserved and anamorphically enhanced with a progressive encode. There is only the rare instance of low-level noise in darker scenes, and, spread over a dual-layered disc, there are few if any issues with compression artefacts. The image is consequently stable with only the faintest traces of macroblocking flicker occasionally if you are looking for it and your screen size is large enough to detect it. What most people will see however is a clear, beautifully toned, sharp image with exceptional detail, colouration and texture, handling even the complexities of branches, trees and leaves without any shimmer or breakup of lines.
The original soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 options, the stereo track presenting a more direct mix, the surround option obviously being preferable for the important ambience that it conveys, as well as its spread of the music score. Both are strong clear and free of any issues.
English subtitles are provided in a clear, white font and are optional.
Interview with Reha Erdem (18:22)
In faltering English and with the assistance of a translator, the director speaks about his very intuitive way of making the film, using the inspiration of the locations and relying on the non-professional young actors from the region to convey something more about the place they live than any structured narrative or script. Likewise Avro Pärt is used on the soundtrack for the music’s spiritual qualities.
The non-anamorphic Trailer (2.02) edits scenes, sound and dialogue to create a misleading impression of there being a narrative thread in the film, but at the same time it captures the qualities of light, life and childhood that are the film’s strengths.
You could question whether there is anything new in the structure, techniques and the non-narrative manner in which Reha Erdem approaches familiar themes beloved of arthouse cinema, and I admit that I personally approached Times and Winds with some degree of scepticism, but the director clearly has a deep understanding of those themes and how they apply to his own world and people he may be familiar with and finds a persuasive means of expressing them in this beautiful film. Artificial Eye’s presentation of the film on DVD is typically strong with a good supporting interview with the director.
Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:23:19