Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma ’09: Two Lines

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Two Lines (2008)

Directed by Selim Evci

At first, Selim Evci’s Two Lines seems almost as taciturn as another Turkish export, Distant (it must be a Turkish film-maker thing, for the real-life Turks I know simply love talking) and also features two main protagonists with hardly any supporting characters to speak of. It hardly feels like a first fiction film and even less does it feel ‘oriental’- it would seem both Ceylan and Evci are strongly steeped in European cinematic codes: minimalist plotlines with scanty dialogue, naturalistic acting, long takes and portent silences.

Evci’s film strongly recalls Antonioni’s L’avventura – the unrelenting atmosphere of eerie discomfort, the waiting for something to happen in order to defuse the layers of unspoken tension between the protagonists, the uncanny beauty of the natural setting and the quietly antagonistic interaction between city dwellers and nature, are all elements which reminded me of Antonioni’s film.

Two Lines is similarly built as a diptych, albeit with a longer urban-set section. The city-countryside divide is the most salient plot device here – once the couple leaves the hullabaloo of the Turkish megalopolis for the quiet beauty of the countryside, the extent of the abyss between the two becomes apparent. Here the camera lingers admiringly over the landscape with long shots of the sea and sunset, thus creating a skilful mix of languor and tension – for example, Mert angrily smoking a cigarette while waiting for Selin to return from her petrol-fetching expedition in a stranger’s car with a sublime sunset is reflected in the rear-view mirror. We find out smoking is a pet hate of Selin’s and begin to perhaps wonder whether Mert’s darkroom forbidden-fruit hobby has more to do with surreptitious smoking rather than espying and filming the leggy neighbours.

And just as his fetish seems exorcised by finally getting to talk to the neighbours on an empty countryside highway of all places and take their legitimate photos, Selin counter-attacks, stirring Mert’s hitherto limp masculine possessiveness by getting into a passing car with a stranger. This is likely the pivotal moment which brings to the surface the simmering, as yet unspoken resentment, triggering the dramatic hotel room episode. Thus Selin and Mert are one of those sulk-fight couples who never seem to fight it out verbally for they hardly talk while an underlying problem gnaws its way out – quite like Marion and Gilles in François Ozon’s 5×2. And just like in the latter, the violent culmination takes the form of marital rape of a certain kind, while the viewer is nevertheless left without an explanation as to the origin of the crisis.

Would Two Lines be a tad too European to be a crowd-pleaser? While it certainly rivals the atmosphere of Ceylan’s Distant and contains landscape sequences of astonishing beauty, the film is somewhat like its characters – modern, groomed, quiet. Those who like their Oriental cinema a bit saucier (that is, a bit less sophisticatedly European) may find it lacking.

– Zornitsa Steneva



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