Thursday, 22 May 2014
At the LTFF: "Circle"
Circle, a beguiling oddity from writer-director Atıl İnaç, operates at such a low level of drollery that no synopsis would do justice to how funny it is, and just how moving it becomes: it plays something like a Roy Andersson film for a while, but with the sickly grey-green palette replaced by warm, honeyed yellows - evidence of its maker's altogether sunnier, more amenable demeanour. It opens as a depressive philosophy lecturer (Fatih Al, who actually looks the part) learns of his father's death; upon returning to the country to sell off the family's land, he finds it's been zoned off for development by the municipality. Clearly, no-one is going anywhere: across town, the same municipality is closing down a theatre, while up in the hills, there sits a pristine new airport built by someone who got their angles wrong, where a crew of men in high-visibility tabards wait for the day planes will be allowed to land there.
What follows is a surprisingly involving study of backwater inertia. While waiting for his case to be reviewed by the authorities, the philosopher takes a job at this non-airport and rents a property adjacent to the theatre's former director (Nazan Kesal), a single mother whose teenage daughter has terminal cancer. The latter isn't the only one sitting around waiting to die, we sense: the philosopher and the director keep bumping into one another around town, yet all they can do is nod politely, both parties apparently unwilling to break the cycles of resignation and despair they've trapped themselves in. At one point, the philosopher cites the ancient Chinese curse "May you be reincarnated in a period of transition", and that's more or less exactly what Circle describes: a handful of nondescript weeks or months during which these characters will be made subject to a fraught yet essentially niggling process of change.
We should credit İnaç and his cast with filling these frames with a kind of life, however circumscribed: three-a-side kickabouts on the wide open space of the airstrip, a peculiar pub game that requires participants to put their necks in a noose, a course for female undertakers held in a dusty antechamber lit to resemble a Rembrandt tableau. İnaç's trump card is the stumbling, rueful almost-romance between two lived-in protagonists who are only too aware of their own limitations, and the external obstacles that might come between them: a narrative that opens up what might merely have seemed a rather arcane and self-sealed world. Yet every strand here ekes out something striking or resonant, not least a wryly persuasive sense of the hoops you sometimes have to pass through to achieve anything in a one-horse town such as this.
Circle screens with a Q&A at the Rio Cinema this Sunday at 3.45, and on Wed 28 at 6.30, and then at the Ray Dolby Theatre on Sun 1 June at 4.30pm.