Having lost his job in a provincial town, a twentysomething Turk with limited prospects (Toprak) descends on his photographer cousin (Zdemir) in Istanbul and proceeds not only to disrupt his cocooned existence, but also to expose the emotions that the lonely divorce has managed to suppress.
A turkish arthouse picture with little dialogue and featuring two characters who spend their evenings confined to an Istanbul apartment might not seem an enticing prospect. But this precisely paced, sensitively performed drama speaks volumes about the growing distance that modern urban living is putting between people who would otherwise have so much in common.
The contrast between Mehmet Emin Toprakís naive bumpkin and Muzaffer Ozdemir's city sophisticate is established in the broadest terms. But director Nuri Bilge Ceylan subtly refines their situations to reveal that beneath Toprak's gauche optimism and Ozdemirís tetchy despondency, these are painfully lonely men whose inability to communicate is as much responsible for their respective plights as economic depression and marital breakdown.
The use of snow as a symbol of isolation is beautifully done, but Ceylan's handling of landscape and decor throughout draws comparison with those masters of alienation, Michelangelo Antonioni and Theo Angelopoulos. The leads shared the Best Actor prize at Cannes, but Toprak was killed in a car crash shortly afterwards. Ironically, this tragedy only reinforces the central theme of making the most of fleeting contentment.
The acting is superb, but this is a true example of the lost art of auteurism, as Ceylan not only wrote and directed this immensely moving film, but also photographed and co-edited it.