Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s "The Wild Pear Tree" (Ahlat Agaci) is an exercise in careful lyricism stretched into 188 minutes. It follows Sinan, an aspiring writer (Dogu Demirkol), in his quest to fund publishing his debut novel of the same title. Despite his aspirations, his homebound return instead welcomes him with his father Idris’ (Murat Cemcir) disastrous financial situation. To make matters worse, his father maintains his cheerful visage in the face of debt whereby his otherwise redeeming poeticism only enrages his son and shatters their already fragmented relationship. Through delving into Sinan’s character, Ceylan creates in "The Wild Pear Tree" a philosophical mind field to dissect the conceptualisation of adulthood through the prism of fundamentally human ideals.
Sinan is as irksome as hypocritical. As the protagonist, the film inherently invites the audience to show him empathy, yet his exasperating personality works to reversely distance the audience from emotional affinity. Early in the film, Sinan runs into the best-known local author, Mr Suleyman. Under the guise of asking questions as an aspiring author, Sinan instead patronises Suleyman, dismissing the idea that artists can exist without isolating themselves in the name of art. While supposedly accidental, it is irritating to watch Sinan trail bait for Suleyman to criticise other authors. Sinan’s hypocrisy is similarly overt, as he criticises the futile romanticism of females, particularly his mother’s decision to remain with his father, while failing to recognise the same qualities existent within himself. Evidently, while he argues that writers cannot gain credibility without recognising their ‘real self’, he cannot see the “incurably romantic” side of himself in searching for one solid literary truth.
Ceylan’s style is composed of an abundance of meta-language, liberal use of the passage of time and naturalistic scenes contrasted with the surrealist compositions of Sinan’s subconscious. The use of meta-language creates a relationship between Sinan’s novel and the film itself. Evidently, Sinan categorises his novel closest to essays or short stories, and the film follows a similar pattern by documenting philosophical discussions strung together by extraordinarily beautiful Turkish landscapes. One such discussion occurs as Sinan stumbles upon two Imani eating apples. The three together promenade while discussing belief, faith and religion. The Imani indubitably believe in the notion of human existence transcending dust, opposing ideas proposed by Shakespeare and Chekhov, as is representative of faith. While Sinan believes in the same such world, he is quick to criticise each judgment made, instead reinforcing the importance of self-criticism and introspection. Despite the validity of his statements, Sinan’s nihilistic execution, brimful with pessimism, lacks any form of social awareness. Admittedly, he later remarks that he does not like people himself, accounting for his lack of remorse and compassion.
The conversations discussed are complemented by wide-shot images of the Turkish landscape. Between scenes, Ceylan gives the audience a glimpse into the natural presence within Turkey, almost hinting to the audience the insignificance of their debates within the wider realm of Mother Earth. The landscape also serves to show movement along the clock, wherein Ceylan uses the seasons to convey and relate the progress of Sinan’s novel. As such, the transition from Spring to Winter is complemented by the difference in Sinan looking for a publisher to already having his book in bookstores. While these naturalistic features capture majority of the film, Ceylan still ignites surprise with the use of surreal scenes derived from Sinan’s dreams. The motif of ants is used in relation with his father, in which one image includes a close-up of a baby covered in ants, using an image of death and decay juxtaposed with otherwise fruitful and regenerative imagery to show the resentment Sinan feels towards Idris.
Early on, Sinan criticises the tendency of ‘simple minds’ to reduce art into one-sentence morals. It would be cruel to then condense Ceylan’s "The Wild Pear Tree" into the same framework. Instead, Ceylan masterfully creates a thoughtful and reflective piece explosive with affluent imagery, allowing each individual audience member to grasp an understanding pertinent to his current state of mind.
Edited by Eloïse Wright, Film Editor