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Reha ERDEM: A New Master of the Turkish Cinema Interview with Reha Erdem (10/26) part 1

Reha ERDEM: A New Master of the Turkish Cinema Interview with Reha Erdem (10/26) part 1

A feature has been put together on Erdem as the symbol of Turkish films’ rapid advancement. Born in Istanbul, Erdem celebrates his 50th birthday. He visited Japan when his “A Run for Money” (2000) and “Times and Winds” (2007) were screened at TIFF and this is his third time in Japan. Apt for the screening of all of his works, this interview explored the implication of his filmography and his love of films across genres having learned about films in Paris. The interviews will bring his comments about his love of films and soul-searching.
©2010 TIFF

---We are so pleased to have you for the third time at TIFF this year. All six of your feature films are screened this time, and I am surprised to see the change in the style from the debut film “Oh Moon” (1988) to the latest “KOSMOS” (2009). “Oh Moon” was a gothic fantasy in monochrome with no apparent national characteristics, but the following “A Run for Money” (1999) and “What’s a Human Anyway?” (2004) were comedies, almost a complete change of course to return to classics. Then “Times and Winds” (2006) and “My Only Sunshine” (2008) changed again towards sound and images that speak to the audience. Would you tell us about these changes in style, please?

Looking back, each one of them is linked within me, or each is repeated. A film is a rich and diverse format and it contains many elements. Each different element makes a different form. “A Run for Money” places more emphasis on the story development, but “Times and Winds” is expressed with accents on different elements such as time and space. Each film is an expression of different conditions. I find it boring to make films in the same way. It is better to grow different crops in one garden.

---I think there are two types of filmmaker. One is like Yasujiro Ozu, who refines a particular style, and the other is like Jean-Luc Godard, who transforms the style for each film.

Both Ozu and Godard are excellent predecessors and I like them both very much. I may be closer to Godard for the reasons I just explained. There is a big format of a film and there are many elements within it. You use each element to create each film. On the other hand, there are filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami, who make similar films in a similar way. It is great, but sometimes I feel bored. I don’t mean to insult Kiarostami at all, but Godard’s world is renewed with every film. Yasujiro Ozu is exemplary to me, just like Kiarostami, as each film has its taste. However, I prefer Godard who renews his world with each work, however, subtle.

---The style changes, but there seems to be some commonality among your characters: a child without parents or with just one parent, a child who takes care of parents who are prone to illness, a child who expresses its loneliness by abusing animals. These are all the same character. What does it mean to have one character who keeps appearing as in a serial form?

It may look like that with hindsight, but I only noticed it afterwards. I did not think in that way during production. As my own issues are reflected in the film, it turned out like that although I was not conscious of it. For example, I did not notice that the girl in “Oh Moon” was acting my past. It stunned me when I realized it. I see them as figures rather than characters, and the series of events are very similar to my personal experience on the psychological level, and I discovered that the girl is myself.

---Do you mean the episodes, such as of a child smoking behind the parents’ back, or a child afraid of circumcision are based on your personal experience? So your emphasis is more on the psychology of the characters than each event.


---Is there anything you pay particular attention when you create characters or figures?

I move the figures at a level which is not real. “Mommy, I’m Scared” has many figures in the story, but each one is different from people in real life. They have been created. They are presented at a completely different level, away from actual human beings. This is an important point. I am not keen on images which are clipped from real life, like candid camera, and those based on naturalism. My ideal film is that each figure is created and each is in a dream. My films often have people from Istanbul but they are completely different from the real people in Istanbul. The same goes with the mother in “Mommy, I’m Scared,” she is not a mother you may find in real life, but she is a figure which has been created. She is strong and powerful enough to overwhelm men, but she is encompassing and compassionate with a strong voice. It is the role of films to create a figure who you do not know. I wouldn’t know what to do if that is my real mother. The son is completely different from the mother; he is a shrinker with a different tone of voice. I create a series of figures like this, like toys.

---I would also like to ask you about the configuration of the figures. In the first half of “Oh Moon,” the girl is lying on her back in her room, and the composition looks very similar to that of a painting by Balthus. How intentional is it to reflect your art and film background in your work?

I am glad you’ve asked. It’s sometimes intentional but it just happens other times. I learned film and figurative arts when I was in France. I like them both. I have many of my favourite artists, and Balthus is one of them. In “Oh Moon,” there is also a scene later when an aunt comes to the girl who is playing a card game, patience (solitaire), and says, “Oh, Patience!”. That is another example. (Note: Balthus painted a picture with similar composition, entitled “La Patience”.) I also looked for relevance between Balthus and Greco at that time and intentionally included the symbols in the film. I like doing things like that. It is not limited to pictures, but I do the same with literary works. For example, I have borrowed names for the characters from a Turkish work of literature. More recently, there is a comical scene with three brothers in “KOSMOS.” I had “The Brothers Karamazov” in mind for that.

---Is that the scene in the first half when patricide and inheritance are discussed?

Yes. In the world of films, there are large formats and everything is positioned within it. For example, you can gather your favorite food or food you don’t like, arrange them or exclude them. It’s the same with Balthus. I have been working with Florent Herry, the cinematographer, and we discuss which picture we will use as a backdrop for the next film before we write the script. We decide on the spirit and color of the film first of all. We had Edward Hopper in mind when we did “A Run for Money.” We make the decision at the beginning, but sometimes we decide to change it during the production. If Florent came with me to Tokyo this time, I wanted to visit art museums in Tokyo together to talk about ideas for the next film. It’s a pity we couldn’t do that.

(Interviewed by Seijin Akatsuka)

Interview with Reha Erdem part 2

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KEIRIN.JPThe 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
22nd Tokyo International Film Festival(2009)