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Thursday, February 6


The last part of the Yusuf  Trilogy, Bal/Honey closes the circle by running in reverse chronological order from maturity to childhood, from Egg to Milk, from fulfilment to loss. Semih Kaplanoğlu, the director, has never admitted that there is a connection among the three movies, yet never denied its semi-autobiographical influence. Nevertheless, there is a familiar touch in the way the movie unravels, a softness that feels too intense to pass. Bal recreates a dying paradise that breathes its last days of beauty under the ruthless wing of life itself. Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010 and Turkey’s entry for best foreign-language film at the 2011 Oscars, Bal is a quest of the self in the deep mountain forests of the Rize Province, near the Black Sea. Nature is celebrated in a stunning display of woods, rivers, animals, birds, insects, flowers, a universe that feels alive, pulsating in an organic rhythm.

Yakup (Erdal Besikcioglu), father, husband and beekeeper, suspends his hives on the high branches of the trees and dangerously climbs the frightening heights to tend to the welfare of the bees. Still, the advent of civilization with its plagues breaks the balance and the bees either die or flee their hives. The father is forced to travel longer distances to keep the bees alive and happy, yet this leaves his young son, Yusuf (Bora Altas), a schoolboy with a stammer, at a loss. Yusuf feels the father is the only one who can understand his shyness and struggle with words. Whispering and drinking milk become their secrets whereas the mother, Zehra (Tulin Ozen), is left aside, a reassuring, warm presence that hasn't reached to the boy's sensitivity yet. At school, Yusuf''s inability to communicate and the other children's mockery keep him to himself and on his own; yet listening to a girl's poem reading moves his little heart and gives him courage. Other than his father, the boys has no friends yet his muteness has grown into the ability to see the hidden beauty of both things and people. Nature makes him feel at ease and it is n the woods that he takes refuge when the news of his dead father ruins the unshared happiness of the reward badge from the teacher.

The story is no novelty, the incredible performances do not come as a surprise, yet there is so much aliveness in the still nature, in the calmness that shrouds the entire movie, in the director's contemplative manner of allowing to camera to linger on every leaf, on every tiny noise, giving shape and heart to nature itself. Bal captures the inner beauty of the world and its mysteries in a remarkable manner that softens the viewer's heart. The lack of dialogue, the still life interior arrangements that feel so Juan Cotán, hanging by invisible strings add up to the peacefulness of the story, rendering tragedy into stillness. Life happens when you are taken aback by its beauty, when you stop to breathe in its mysteries and marvel at its plenitude; its ruthless grip never fails to harm you. And when it strikes you, there is no turning back to paradise, loss becomes real and childhood comes to an end.

It takes time and patience to deconstruct a character, to unmake him from middle age to childhood, highlighting those essential moments that shaped him into the person he is. It takes great talent and a certain acceptance of the self to paint a life in images. From adulthood to childhood, crossing the trilogy, the viewer is allowed to relieve in Yusuf's eyes the experiences that build him into a strong man. In Semih Kaplanoğlu's movie details hold the greatest importance, little pieces of an intricate, lively puzzle that aims at capturing the hidden memory of things, of time itself. Yusuf feels like living inside a giant maze that takes him on an amazing journey leaving the audiences wonder what will become of the boy who managed to get under your skin with his soft movements, big, intelligent eyes and unspoken emotions. Like honey, life is hard to grasp, yet the victory feels sweet and rewarding; so there is promise in Yusuf's loss of innocence.
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