Home / News / Review: ‘About Dry Herbs’ is one of the highly evocative highlights of 2024, briefly at the Film Center

Review: ‘About Dry Herbs’ is one of the highly evocative highlights of 2024, briefly at the Film Center


“About Dry Herbs” begins with blackness and poplar poplar The sound of wet snow hitting the ground. Seconds later, the startling sight of a man alone on a rural road arrives; A man who, in the long run, looks more like a dot than a person, trudging forward with a briefcase in his hand, surrounded by a sea of ​​white, whipped by the wind.

Yes you are right. This is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this is too striking a shot to be dismissed as coy or uncompromisingly harsh. This is the last and one of the greatest films of co-writer and Istanbul-based writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Ceylan is among the six, perhaps eight, distinguished cinema poets in the world. This kind of explanation usually excites me; Too many reviewers repeat it every week or two and shout it a wolf, a masterpiece, or a can’t-miss too often to be trusted. But Ceylan and “About Dry Herbs” can handle this.

Strangely, the film is the third recently commercially released feature film depicting teachers in crisis. First, to laugh and warm carefully designed hearts, “Arrests.” Then moist nail biter from Germany “Teachers’ Hall.” The middle school art teacher in Ceylan’s first frame is Samet (Deniz Celiloğlu), who returns home after winter break (though it is clear that winter never takes a break) to spend the last months of his fourth year in distant Turkish Anatolia. bay.

Describing Samet as a washed-up case suggests that he might once have been an effective and devoted teacher in Anatolia or elsewhere. But probably not. Typically ignoring narratives of redemption, Ceylan and his co-writers Ebru Ceylan (also his wife, also his co-star in 2006’s astounding “Climates”) and Akın Aksu gradually reveal an unflinching portrait of a cynical, blithely arrogant victim. They take it out. due to the situation.

He shares the same apartment with his friend Kenan (Musab Ekici), a public school teacher; Samet is as friendly and generally happy as he is cunning and controlled. We soon learn that Samet prefers the best and smartest girls in his class, especially Sevim (Ece Bağcı). He began to give her gifts from time to time, such as a small mirror; His closeness to the girl and his behavior attracted the attention of other students. After the official complaint against Samet and Kenan, the school district administration steps in.

The film doesn’t go where you think it will, or pay attention to the gradation of Samet’s dangerous misjudgments at the expense of the larger narrative. Every moment of the three-plus hours feels necessary, and the magnificent final third wouldn’t be what it is today without the space and time. At its core, “About Dry Herbs” is a wise and subtly humane story about three adults; one is betrayal and the price of living a toxically unexamined life.

The crucial character here is Nuray (Merve Dizdar, who won the best actress award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival), another teacher from the nearby town. The left-wing dissident and former military soldier lost her leg in a suicide attack. Like Samet, he is also an artist; Unlike Samet, he really cares about his environment and not just because he’s a local. Samet and Nuray meet early for tea in the TV series “About Kuru Otlar”. It is clear that he is reluctant to go any further. While walking to the well on the local hillside, Samet boasts by showing Nuray’s Instagram photo to Kenan. Kenan and Nuray become friends in a short time; Samet gets jealous. Samet secretly prepares a dinner with Nuray as a sneaky revenge maneuver. This dinner begins with a riveting political debate filled with multiple types of tension between the jaded realist and the impassioned idealist.

Merve Dizdar (left) and Deniz Celiloğlu in “About Dry Herbs”. (The Show and Janus Films via AP)

There’s a sneaky streak of black comedy in many of the conversations and encounters here. The acting is impeccable and the fluidity and variety of shot designs represent an exciting development in Ceylan’s technique. With Ceylan’s perspective on faces, landscapes and spatial dynamics, “About Dry Herbs” is among the first-rate works of cinematographers Kürşat Üresin and Çevahir Şahin, filling every widescreen frame with life.

There are times when Samet’s caddishness is telegraphed very clearly in Celiloğlu’s performance. And while the film’s riskiest stylistic leap (no spoilers here) works for me, the thrilling voiceover narration explains things in ways that almost the entirety of “About the Dry Herbs” so effectively avoids. Small matters. This is beautiful work, and not just because it’s beautiful. At one point during dinner, as the sexual tension hangs in the air, Nuray indicates that she is ready, which in Samet’s case means that she is necessarily ready to make the moral compromise to get to the bedroom. “You need time to get to know someone,” he tells her. “On the other hand, when some things are left to time… they just become a waste of time.”

“About Dried Herbs” — 4 stars (out of 4)

No MPA rating (some languages)

Running time: 3:17

How to watch: March 1-7, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.; siskelfilmcenter.org


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