Cannes Review: The Wild Pear Tree shows a new side of filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan

The Wild Pear Tree is oil and water with the Turkish filmmaker’s prior work


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Nuri Bilge Ceylan, director of the 2014 Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep,” is no foreigner to the Cannes red carpet. “The Wild Pear Tree” is Ceylan’s sixth feature-length film in competition at the festival, and it won’t be his last.

However, the newest addition to the Ceylan œuvre stands out from the rest. If not for the fact that the characters speak Turkish, “The Wild Pear Tree” would be almost unrecognizable.

Whereas Ceylan’s earlier work has a brooding masterly quality, “The Wild Pear Tree” takes on an almost bright, amateurish atmosphere. With clunky musical transitions and awkward shots abounding, Ceylan’s newest film feels like a promising student film.

How could such a celebrated international filmmaker put out a film with so many technical and narrative flaws? How could J. D. Salinger do the same thing in 1951 when he published the all-American classic, “The Catcher in the Rye”?

“The Wild Pear Tree” is far from an ‘all-American classic,’ without a doubt, but what it is, however, is a “quirky autobiographical meta-narrative.” Much like Salinger’s novel, the film takes advantage of a rather incompetent narrator, Sinan, in order to tell a truer-than-life, coming-of-age story.

Sinan, the film’s protagonist, is a struggling first-time author. He carries his manuscript with him wherever he goes, hoping that someone will give him enough money to publish it into a book. Sinan’s perspective, idealistic and naive as it may be, is the point of view from which the film is shot. Ceylan evidently put a lot of his young self into his protagonist and, as such, makes creative decisions on Sinan’s behalf. This is where the film takes on its metafictional aspect.

As is the case with other meta-narratives, Ceylan makes it hard to critique his film. Every ‘poor’ decision can be attributed to intention and less to the failure of artistic vision. Thus, the following critiques must be taken with a grain of salt.

At a runtime of three hours and eight minutes, “The Wild Pear Tree” far extends its welcome. Many times throughout the film, scenes run too long and the mind finds occasion to wonder. Although there is much beauty in its length, the runtime makes it almost unbearable to sit through in one sitting.

Additionally, the film is very self-interested, introducing characters left and right but only allowing time for the protagonist and his closest family members. Subplots exploited at the beginning of the film are left unaddressed by the time the credits role at the end.

All of this is, of course, frustrating for the casual filmgoer. At the premiere of the film on Friday night, many left the theater before the conclusion of the film. But Ceylan has always been a challenging filmmaker, and to expect anything else from his newest film is nothing less than folly.

“The Wild Pear Tree” is a welcome step backward for the filmmaker. His trademark brooding cynicism transforms into youthful angst. His masterly technique recedes into amateurish blunders.

The film is truly one of a kind, and it will likely remain so well into the auteur’s career. Its metafictional aspects, aggravating as they may be, are nonetheless interesting and contribute to a sense of character and space.

Whether a fan of Ceylan’s work or not, “The Wild Pear Tree” is worth giving a try.

“The Wild Pear Tree” is still seeking U.S. distribution.

MOVE gives "The Wild Pear Tree" 3.5 out of 5 stars.

For more 2018 Cannes Film Festival Reviews, click here:

Edited by Siena DeBolt |

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