We should all congratulate Nuri Bilge Ceylan

We should all congratulate Nuri Bilge Ceylan

When I heard that one of the masters of Turkish cinema, whose films I always make sure to watch, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, had won another major prize, I remembered a judgment: The judgment of, may he rest in peace, my dear friend Professor Kurthan Fişek who said, “The success of any Turk who has stepped through the Kapıkule border gate makes me happy.”

I do not always assess an artist, director, writer or poet according to the interest shown in them abroad. However, now, the global nature of life brings and necessitates the mentality of transnational acclaim.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan received the Aydın Doğan Prize in 2010 on the following grounds: “He is one of the outstanding names in the recent major leap of Turkish cinema. He has given remarkable examples of his search for the identity of Turkish cinema in recent years, attracting the attention of the whole world. He sets an example to the younger generations with the awards he has won and the achievements he has made.”

I have noticed a feature that is present in almost all Nuri Bilge Ceylan films. He is a filmmaker who makes you think at every frame, but not because he wants to become a thinker. There is a sophisticated political attitude in his cinema, nothing is highlighted too brightly. It is left down to the interpretation of the viewer, and in this way it becomes much more effective.

I have never been a viewer of blockbuster movies. That’s not to say that I disapprove of them or dislike them. But I am first and foremost a viewer of Nuri Bilge Ceylan films; I am the viewer of that language. He is an artist who says what he says without banging you around the head, and who makes us feel our individual and social inner strains. He is a creator who has principles, but who does not turn them into obsessions.

For example, he explains the language that he used and depicted for us in his film “Three Monkeys” and others as follows: “I love the melodramatic themes you can find in conventional Turkish cinema.

Turkish people are quite fond of this and I can understand that. I wanted to borrow these themes and re-adapt them with a realistic style. Most of the melodramas depict surreal situations that are unlikely to happen in real life, but if we move them to a more realistic platform they can still very well become convincing. I think the essence of life is melodramatic. Especially in Turkey!”

In an interview with Michel Ciment and Yann Tobien published in the French magazine Positif in January 2009, Nuri Bilge Ceylan described himself as a “chameleon.” 

I find it very correct for an artist, especially a moviemaker, to say in his or her own words that he or she is a chameleon. This is because if the situation calls for a change, you have to practice it. I think of artists in terms of multiple identities; if an artist shuts himself down within only what he has found, then I develop the opinion that he has a limited talent.

He should always be ready for a new creation.

Ceylan answers political questions with a masterly attitude, with a non-reactionary strategy, without falling into the trap of the superficial satisfaction of daily political slogans… That’s why I find the dedication sentence he used while receiving the prize important. He actually exposed the sentimental situation of Turkey. Previously, he had summed up Turkey’s spiritual and mental identity.

I also find a resemblance in the political content of Ceylan’s films with the political content of Bilge Karasu’s novel “Gece” (Night). Anyone who knows, who recognizes, and who has a political stance would make sense of this.

I have a high opinion of every word Ceylan says. He once said that he has rejected offers to shoot films in certain other places, because he did not know the place or the people there.

This is an absolutely correct judgment. If you do not know the people of that place, how are you going to explain it?   

Art is global and universal, but it is also acclaimed in the international arena as long as it is fueled with local content. I like this. No matter which branch of art it is, there should be an effort to understand it.

The viewer, at the same time, has to become the questioner while watching his films… Even though Nuri Bilge Ceylan does not openly say this, he is expecting it…

I congratulate him again, and call on everybody to congratulate him.