Star Rating:

The Wild Pear Tree (Ahlat Agaci)

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Actors: Dogu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Bennu Yildirimlar

Release Date: Friday 30th November 2018

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 188 minutes

In a small Turkish village, recent graduate and want-to-be author Sinan (Aydın Doğu Demirkol) is struggling to get his book published. Desperately seeking the money to self-publish his novel 'The Wild Pear Tree', he meets and interacts with a succession of characters from his home village as the anxiety of his future starts to weight him down.

‘The Wild Pear Tree’ is a very slow methodical film. Shots linger for longer than we are used to, characters continue monologing long after their point has been made and the plot trundles past many obvious stopping points by the time the credits roll. Its glacial speed and bladder testing length is its main strength and it is utterly engrossing.

At its heart, it is essentially a coming of age drama with an overtly existential thread. Salacious kissing in the woods, falling out with friends, falling out with parents, grumpiness, and petty acts of vandalism are all present. Rather than a snarky middle-class white guy who wants to be a writer, there is a snarky working-class Turkish guy who wants to be a writer. And boy is he snarky! One of the great ironies in the film is that Sinan wants to be an author that focuses on the mundane life of “the peasants” of his hometown but every time he meets one he is nothing but surly with them, refusing to see their wisdom.

And every character is happy to dole out wisdom. At the least provocation, any old sheep farmer Sinan meets will discuss any philosophical topic that has been weighing on their mind. As if they have just written an essay on the aesthetic emotions and are hoping to send it to New Philosopher Monthly and just want to read it verbatim to check for spelling errors. But often where the real interest lies is in what the characters don’t say but hint at. There are some performances that are so natural you’d find it hard to believe they are actors.

In lesser hands, it would be a real snooze fest but Nuri Bilge Ceylan crafts it with such care and attention that it is really captivating. The film works best when it is subverting expectations of the audience when cameras suddenly lack an omnipresence or when we think a fate has befallen a character to find they are actually fine. There is one reveal in the background that requires a knowledge of Turkish geography and is easily missed but totally reframes a pivotal scene. It is the subtly in the storytelling that will stick with you.

Most of the film takes place out in the countryside that Sinan claims to love but seems to hold little regard or interest in. The shots and what they capture are wonderful and if you ever get bored of a character pontificating there is always some great scenery to admire.

‘The Wild Pear Tree’ is a solid piece of slow cinema, with a great cast and a sly, gentle humour.