Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Cast: Merve Dizdar, Deniz Celiloğlu, Musab Ekici | Turkey, Drama 197′
The past and the present once again collide in this discursive latest drama from Nuri Bilge Ceylan. It sees an art teacher languishing in a remote Anatolian backwater yearning for a transfer to the bright lights of Istanbul.
Samet (Deniz Celiloglu) has always been proud of his easy manner and genial way with his students although recently this bonhomie has failed to materialise due to his stalling career. He shares a comfortable house with a younger colleague Kenan (Musab Ekici) who joins him by the fireside after trudging across the snowbound wasteland in the film’s opening sequence. The two seem unaware of the latent competitiveness in their relationship,
But summer soon arrives bringing with it a vast expanse of dry grasses. Ceylan’s elegant framing once again provides a contemplative setting for this reflective story about school staff having to shoulder responsibility for accusations from pupils. And Samet soon comes under scrutiny when a pupil accuses him of abuse.
Samet has a soft spot for his prize pupil 14 year old Sevim (Ece Bagci) and the two often engage in inappropriate banter. But when Sevim betrays their clandestine friendship by filing a complaint about his behaviour to the authorities Samet backs off immediately, wondering whether his more attractive colleague Kenan is fact partly to blame for the complain. Kenan then becoming the focus in the inquiry. All this has a negative impact on Samet’s ego accentuating his competitive streak with Kenan. By way of getting his own back he decides to sabotage Kenan’s budding romance with his female colleague Nuray (Merle Dizdar) who works in a bigger school in a nearby town.
Although the Turkish auteur reworks his customary themes in one of his most resonant works so far, his films are always intriguing, memorable, and wonderful to look at. This time around a cheeky fourth wall adds an element of surprise to the Ceylan’s signature style. And although Dry Grasses never reaches a resounding conclusion, we leave the cinema feeling satisfied and enriched by the experience. MT
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | Best Actress Award Merve Dizdar