the wild pear tree

- Review by Mia Sherry

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Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Tree is a three hour-long epic that charts Sinan’s (Aydın Doğu Demirkol) return to the village where he grew up, his passion about literature and  his desperation to get his works published. However, his father (Murat Cemcir) has debts that throw the family into turmoil and threaten to destroy the path Sinan is carving for himself.

From the first scene we’re immersed in Ceylan’s deeply poetic and cinematic view of the Turkish countryside, coupled with an autumnal colour scheme that speaks louder than words. His love for photography does not go unnoticed as scenes are often shot statically with movement deriving from shifts in focus. In this film it feels perfectly in place, where everything holds meaning and value. Nothing is discounted within the scene, rather just placed foreground or background as needs be. The entire film is an exercise in showing rather than telling. Told through the eyes of Sinan, his writer’s imagination leads to dream sequences of heart-stopping proportions, perfectly balancing the real with the fantastical.  It fits so harmoniously with the film as a whole it never once disrupts the flow of the narrative. At times comedic and at others deeply haunting, it adds another brilliant layer to this already intricate story, enticing the viewer even more into Sinan’s world.

The Wild Pear Tree can be boiled down to one facet of its multi-dimensional being: it’s a coming of age movie, of someone who has already come of age. It charts the growing pains of an artist, and his search for belonging in a world that feels too small for him. A deeply relatable subject, it’s something many artists draw on, but this is perhaps the most humane and deeply truthful account I’ve seen. Because Sinan is undoubtedly home, but through artful attention to detail Ceylan creates the distinct feeling of having lost something you once had; something you once knew, but have forgotten. As we descend into third act, and Sinan returns from his military service, it reminds me of a bad dream I used to have; walking up the stairs in my childhood home and then to find there was one extra step. Not scary, but off-kilter, unsure about which has changed, you or your home.

Though this film is certainly an endurance test, it’s worth it all for the end sequence. The most emotionally raw and unflinchingly honest acting I’ve seen comes from both Sinan and his father as they parse out their fraught relationship and come to terms with their inevitable bond as father and son. It’s not full of wishy-washy Hollywood semantics, that ends with a manly hug and a clap to the shoulder. Rather, it has an air of parting to it. With the fire and heat of their arguments gone, Sinan can finally see and accept how alike he and his father are. It’s this clarity of vision that truly allows him to move on and instead of relenting to these shared aspects, he can now earnestly begin to change them. Though some of the audience members in the screening complained of a ‘harsh’ ending, I found it to be optimistic. Sinan now understands what path he is on, and where he needs to go. It’s an uplifting reminder to us all that good art isn’t created overnight, nor is something bequeathed to us from a higher power. It’s organic, it’s solitary and it’s something that grows with you.

Everything about this film works to create something unbearably real, hard to watch but harder to look away. It’s an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the artist and their place in the world, in the worlds we create and the worlds we exist in. The Wild Pear Tree is a must-see for everyone, but particularly for artists young and old. From its message to its crafting, you’ll walk out feeling understood, not alone and maybe even inspired.