Dried herbs | Dreaming of Istanbul

Ninth feature film by the great Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Dried herbs sketches the portrait of a plastic arts teacher, forced to practice his profession in a remote region of Anatolia, who is accused of having adopted inappropriate behavior towards a student.

From Winter sleep (Palme d’or 2014), the cinema of Nuri Bilge Ceylan becomes less meditative and more talkative. Dried herbswhich won the prize for best actress for the fiery Merve Dizdar at Cannes, fits perfectly into this lineage, with its characters who debate until the end on political and climatic issues when they do not share their dreams or their disillusionment with their interlocutors.

Written with Ebru Ceylan, companion, muse and main co-writer of the filmmaker since Three monkeys (2008), and Akin Aksu, co-writer of wild pear tree (2018), Ceylan’s previous film, the story is inspired by the diary of Aksu, who, for three years, taught arts in Anatolia. Of great dramatic density, rich in observations on the weight of solitude, full of disturbing unsaid words and equivocal gestures, carried by tragicomic characters in spite of themselves, Dried herbs inevitably evokes Chekhov and Bergman.

With the hope of teaching visual arts in Istanbul, Samet (Deniz Celiloğluz) is forced, like his roommate Kenan (Musab Ekici), to carry out his civil service in a modest school in a remote village of Anatolia, where time seems to have stood still for decades. When a friend suggests he meet Nuray (Merve Dizdar), a teacher who lost a leg in a terrorist attack, Samet refuses to start an affair with her as he is convinced that he will soon be transferred to the metropolis. He prefers instead to introduce Kenan to Nuray, who, to Samet’s great surprise, shows a keen interest in his roommate.


Deniz Celiloğluz and Merve Dizdar in Dried herbsby Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Samet sees his future darken when Bekir (Onur Berk Arslanoğlu), director of the school, tells him that two young girls, including his favorite student, Sevim (Ece Bağcı), accuse them, Samet and Kenan, of having behaved inappropriately towards them. While Bekir dodges Samet’s questions and seems to take the accusations lightly, the teacher changes his attitude towards Kenan and Sevim. He will even want to get closer to Nuray, who does not hesitate to confront him with his own contradictions.

For a rare time, the name of the brilliant cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki does not appear in the credits.

However, the superb images of Cevahir Sahin and Kürsat Üresin, who masterfully capture the winter splendor of the Anatolian landscapes and sign the moving portraits of peasants that Samet sketches in his free time, rival in beauty those of the faithful ally of Ceylon.

The close-up of Ece Bağcı with her hair covered in snow turns out to be a magnificent nod to Ebru Ceylan in The climates (2006). One of the shots of the tête-à-tête between Samet and Nuray also echoes that of the Ceylan couple in this film following the moods of a couple over the seasons.


Ece Bağcı in Dried herbs

Beyond illustrating the majesty of this distant land, the images of Dried herbs forcefully convey Samet’s feeling of helplessness, prisoner of a hostile environment populated by beings with indiscernible intentions. After teaching his dissipated students about perspective, he observes, petrified, the distant vanishing point as if he wanted the landscape to disappear. Later, Nuri Bilge Ceylan boldly demonstrates Samet’s desire to escape when he takes him completely out of the story for a scene, literally sending him behind the scenes of the film. Unlike lovers of Climates, this teacher who dreams of other horizons will experience spring. Who knows, in the season of renewal he will be able to take a fresh look at this harsh universe that surrounds him.

Dried herbs is presented in theaters in a version with English subtitles at the Parc cinema and in a version with French subtitles at the Modern cinema.


Check the movie schedule

Dry Herbs (Turkish original version with French subtitles by Kuru Otlar Üstüne)


Dried herbs (Turkish V.O. with French subtitles from Kuru Otlar Üstüne)

Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Deniz Celilogluz, Musab Ekici, Merve Dizdar, Ece Bağcı

3:17 a.m.


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