A half-hour ago I slipped out of a still-running Salle Debussy screening of Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s The Wild Pear Tree. It runs 188 minutes, and I made it to the two-hour mark. I’ve been a Ceylan fan (Climates, Three Monkeys, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Winter Sleep) for years, but this time he lost me. As in “forget it, life is short, this isn’t happening,” etc.
I’ll get around to seeing the final hour later this year, but I knew The Wild Pear Tree was a no-go within the first half-hour.
Set in a mid-size Turkish city (Yenice), it’s a John Osbourne-ish, angry-young-man thing about despair, bitterness, insecurity and festering resentments. The protagonist is Sinan, a would-be writer (Aydın Doğu Demirkol) with an attitude problem. Pissed at his father, dismissive of his friends and the community, a bit arrogant, undisciplined. You can sense early on that he’s his own worst enemy.
I’ve just shared the following with a journalist friend: “The main character, the unshaven and hunched-over Sinan, was just insufferable. In denial, judgmental, dismissive of community locals, a guy with an attitude, indecisive, sullen. Two hours with that guy was more than enough.
“Nothing really happened in the first two hours. No inciting incident, nothing sought or feared except a life of tedium, nothing at stake, no story tension at all, no bad decision or any decisions of any kind…it was just idling in neutral.
“When I saw the body lying near the tree, I thought ‘aah, a suicide or a murder or a death from old age….but at least it’s something!’ It turned out to be none of these.
“If Sinan had only tried to re-ignite things with the pretty ex-girlfriend (the one who bummed a cigarette and was bit him on the lip when they kissed). She was cool, different, contrarian. But of course he didn’t pursue her. Why would he? That would be too interesting. “The best scene was that testy discussion in the book store (and then on a bridge) with the accomplished writer.
“The second best scene was when Sinan dropped that broken-off portion of the statue of a woman into the river, and then ran away when somebody pointed him out as a vandal.”