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Alternate weathers: how the films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan think about nature and technology
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
posted on 30.01.2017by Masukor, Sarinah Hope
A central figure in contemporary Turkish cinema, Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a director who uses cinema
to develop, consider and communicate ideas about the world he films. Although language has long
been the dominant vehicle for thought in Western scholarship, this thesis will argue that the image is
an equally effective tool for the development and communication of thought, using the presentation
of nature and technology in Ceylan’s work as an example. Through a method of visual study devised
from the theory of Nicole Brenez, Andrew Benjamin and Alain Bergala and the film work of Harun
Farocki, this thesis examines the ways nature and technology diverge, intersect and merge in Ceylan’s
films, to argue that, in his view, technology and nature are rhythms of experience.
Despite the concentration on a single director, this work is not an auteur study and does
not seek to establish a map of the director’s style. It does, however, pay particular attention to the
aesthetic dimension of his work. Concentrating on medium, materiality, rhythm, and the presence
of space, light and colour, I demonstrate how Ceylan uses these elements to think about nature
and technology. This approach is without precedent in existing accounts of his ouevre. From the
ecological anxiety of Clouds of May to the sublime synthesis of natural world and digital colour
in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Ceylan presents a range of perspectives on the experience of
technology and nature.
The thesis contributes to two key areas of film studies: the growing body of work on Ceylan
and Turkish cinema and the argument for cinema as a method of complex and philosophical
thought. The idea that images can be both immanently critical and critical tools has precedents in
books like Yvette Bíró’s Turbulence and Flow, which takes up Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’
arguments for science and philosophy as “‘open systems’ that endlessly dialogue with the cultural
environment, effecting change and in turn being marked by the exchange” and in Nicole
Brenez’s comparative analyses, where one film speaks back to another, challenging, supporting and
completing it. My work contributes to this area and offers a further example of the image as critical
tool. It also challenges traditional notions of photographic ontology and seeks to contribute to a
non-oppositional ontology of digital cinema, arguing that the ‘truth’ of an image does not lie in its indexicality. This places the work in a growing field of study that is moving away from critical theory,
cultural studies, psychoanalysis and semiotics, choosing instead to revive early film theory and ask
questions of cinema’s ontology via the cinema itself.
Two dominant positions emerge from the analyses. The first is of nature and technology as
quotidian experiences. The second is of them as overwhelming and in excess of the space made
available for them in the lives of the characters. Both constitute rhythms that are absorbed by the
films and influence their pace and rhythmic design.