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.
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.