Director/Writer: Yesim Ustaoglu | Cast: Neslihan Atagul, Baris Hachihan, Ozcan Deniz, Nihal Yalcin, Yesemin Conka | 124mins *** Drama Turkish with subtitles
Another Anatolian story this time set in contemporary Karabuk, an industrial town that seems an appropriate location for its title literally meaning in between heaven and hell or limbo. Yesim Ustaoglu also tells her story of frustrated dreams and hopes in the middle of a snowswept winter where two young people are stuck in dead-end jobs with grueling schedules and long commutes.
Yesim Ustaoglu is a well-known filmmaker in Turkey as had success with previous features Pandora’s Box (2008) and Waiting For The Clouds (2003) both stories of the human condition seen through difficult circumstances.
Here in Araf, Zehra (Neslihan Atagul) and Olgun (Baris Hacihan) are keen on each other despite their monotonous lives. Then Zehra meets Mahur (Ozcan Deniz) at a wedding and the two become close but face considerable problems due to societal pressures. What follows is an unflinching portrait of a woman trapped in time and place will little choice or personal freedom and as Zehra, Atagul’s is convincing and believable as she scales the highs and lows of her emotions.
Yesim Ustaoglu is undoubtedly a talented filmmaker. That said, her latest film is too long at over just two hours and would have had more impact with the benefit of judicious editing for such emotionally demanding subject matter. MT
THE LONDON TURKISH FILM FESTIVAL | FEBRUARY 2013