Sunday, July 28, 2013

MIFF Session 2: JIN: Babe in the Cradle of Civilisation

The most beautiful vision you have seen of a vast cloud bank pouring over a mountain range in a cascade slow enough and so easy on the eye that it feels like a dose of codeine when you need one. A stag in a field, the camera recording the glorious complexity of its coat. A forest. A lizard on a bough. A snake winding about its life. A turtle grinding through another day. Through the rich green leaves of a bush we see a red bandana and a human eye peering through the foliage. An explosion. Tearing blasts of automatic weaponry batter the trees. The story of Earth in about ten minutes. We are witnessing nature, even the bullets.

In one of the many caves you'l  see on screen beautiful 17 year old Jin listens to a fellow Kurdish guerilla sing a haiunting song about a mother wanting her daughter to come home. Jin hugs her colleague and desserts the camp.

Out of this needle edge of civilisation Jin plunges into nature. The life on the mountain runs the gamut and adds mineral to the vegetable and animal with sloping fields hazardous with shin shattering rocks. In her little red riding bandana she negotiates wildlife both lo and hi tech: a silent deal with an eagle wins her an egg for lunch, a shepherd recognises her military status and easily parts with half his bread, she crosses a field targeted by snipers and takes shelter against a bombing run with a bear with whom she shares an apple, chancing on a farm house she steals provisions and money but tends to the  sick old woman of the house.

But if she is a Red Riding Hood she is a seasoned veteran version, not needing no lines about what big eyes or teeth possessed of the predators ursine, reptilian or human and sexual she meets. She has no trouble recognising the need for compassion when it arises and applies her skills of healing and nurture as easily as she handles the Kalashnikov she toted before burying it in a cave.

So, she is young and schooled in the world. So what? Well that's for us to discover as we go, observing her simple but certain quest to escape the war and return to her mother. To do this she must consolidate her departure from the endless hours of war. Her first transformation is made after she visits the farmhouse and steals clothes as well as food. Burying her camouflaging drabs and weapon, changes and in her new rich colour she stands out from the landscape like a civilian. From here she looks like an innocent and knows it which works haere and fails there.

What I'm describing will seem quite ho hum but for all the broadness of the brush but there is such depth of feeling and seriousness in the telling here. Deniz Hasguler's effortless charisma is the chief delivery but the often breathtaking nature photography is presented as an equal in this film of extremely spare dialogue but constant communication. There is simply no easy way to look away from the plain but solid plea to consider the continuum of nature from earth to explosive. No better setting for this tale than here in the cradle of civilisation. From earth to Ur to Byzantium to here...

Reha Erdem's previous MIFF film, Kosmos, was a complicated fable of morality and faith. It's power was undercut by the uneasy blend of hard edge and whimsy. Here, he has honed an appreciation for an elegantly spare canvas.

Jin's final transformation will not be revealed here but it is both a gut punch and unsurprising. It results in her most powerful acts of compassion and leads to a tableau so shiveringly confronting it will either drive you to derisive rejection or riddle you with emotion. I kept myself one shudder short of tears.

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