Review by Jenny Jediny
Posted on 03 May 2007
Source Cinemien 35mm Theatrical Print
Features: The 2007 Tribeca Film Festival
A single, graceful motif is repeated throughout Times and Winds, offering wordless moments of contemplation with a remarkable image: Pre-Raphaelite portraits of children, sprawled on earth or among scattered foliage, lay in an innocent state of slumber. Interspersed among long scenes of daily life in a Turkish mountain village, these images offer a pastoral beauty mirrored by the deliberate pace of Reha Erdem’s film.
The idyllic environment of Times and Winds is as seemingly uncluttered as the lives of the village’s inhabitants. Focusing on three adolescent children, Erdem cautiously balances the naïve viewpoint of his young protagonists with the more complicated dynamic of their parents and other adults, maintaining a tone that is neither cloying nor ambivalent to the children’s inability to grasp the larger situations at hand. The initiation of sexual awareness is a constant theme, but without embarrassment or juvenile humor; rather, there is a delicate revelation as a young girl overhears her parents making love, a moment that brings her to confused tears, and later in the crush a young boy has on his teacher, as he avoids washing his thumb stained with blood from a wound on her foot.
Darker fixations form between parent and child as another young boy years for his father to die. In almost typical Oedipal fashion (there is no apparent obsession with his mother), the child first begs illness to take his father, then purchases a knife to speed up the process. While the stunt seems entirely youthful, with little thought of consequence, a parallel forms with the actions and repressed emotions among the adults in the film, many of whom share similar aggression. There is a particularly painful relationship between a child’s father and grandfather, as the elderly man belittles his son in a way that indicates years of verbal abuse, made obvious in the father’s physically contorted body language, and his impatience with his own children.
While Times and Winds retains focus on the small details and individual relationships within this community, a secondary theme reveals itself in the narrative structure of the piece; the Turkish title, Bes vakit, literally translates to “five times,” interpreted in the film’s use of temporal chapters. Utilizing Salah, the ritual prayer of Muslims, the film may be divided into five sections dictated by the times of day in which prayer is practiced. There is no indication of a clear significance, yet Erdem emphasizes the importance of religion and prayer in village life, underlining its meaning through the children’s unquestioning obedience to prayer hours, as well as specifically having the ill father hold the position of muezzin, leading the call to prayer. Considering the contemporary debate in Turkey between secular leadership and Islam, Erdem hints at the current political problem, illustrated with the children’s biological studies juxtaposed with the increasing illness of the muezzin.
Times and Winds’ greatest strength is in its minimalism, as well as its patience; the lush visuals and rhythmic flow gently draws us in, as the film nearly hums with the activity of life brimming among children and the natural world. This life however, as it so often happens, breaks unexpectedly, and we are left with a poignant reminder of the rush of impending adulthood and its consequences.