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GOCRITIC! Karlovy Vary 2019

GoCritic! Interview: Kıvanç Sezer • Director of La Belle Indifference

“We can all succumb to denial as a defence mechanism, but if it goes too far it can ruin your life”

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- We talked with the Turkish director whose second feature has world-premiered in Karlovy Vary Competition

GoCritic! Interview: Kıvanç Sezer   • Director of La Belle Indifference
Kıvanç Sezer at Karlovy Vary

La Belle Indifference, an absurdist comedy drama that deals with job loss as well as the marital and existential crises it induces, premiered in KVIFF’s Competition. The film follows Onur (Alican Yücesoy), a pharmaceutical sales manager who — after losing his job — doesn’t seem to care much about anything, which cannot be said for his wife Bahar (Başak Özcan). We talked to writer-director Kıvanç Sezer about his approach to the topic of capitalism as seen via the construction industry, his directorial choices, and his next project.

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GoCritic!: The main character Onur is very specific, since in the beginning of the film he seems to be aware of some absurdities in his capitalistic environment, but as the story progresses we perceive him as completely oblivious. Why did you choose that kind of ambiguity in depicting the protagonist?
Kıvanç Sezer: Onur is a part of that absurdity, as he represents one small element of this big machine of which he’s not aware. And at the very beginning he becomes just one small, useless element thrown out of it. So he finds himself at a crossroads and has two options: either he will accept taking a step backwards in his career and end up in a lower position on the corporate ladder, or change his life completely. But he doesn’t do either of these; he refuses to face reality and the machine itself. He does eventually realise something is wrong — even if we, as an audience, understand it from the very beginning. It’s important for Onur’s perspective that he is not aware of it, because for me that directorial decision represented a kind of criticism in a way, a criticism even of me or of you. We can all succumb to denial as a defence mechanism and it is a very human thing, but if it goes too far it can ruin your life.

In the first part of the film the audience will sympathise with Onur, but as the film progresses our focus and sympathy goes towards his wife Bahar. The couple’s economic difficulties bring to the surface traditional gender-role conflicts. Why did you choose to incorporate that aspect into the story?
There are still big gender differences in Turkey, even though the situation has somewhat changed in the last 50 years. Apart from losing his job, Onur’s existence at home is problematic as well. If he’s not working, he is expected to do chores and these things present a problem of pride for him. That kind of redistribution of responsibility is obviously triggering something and putting a sort of a ticking bomb under their marriage. So we start with Onur, and sympathise with him; in the first part of the film, Bahar is sort of invisible – both to him and to the audience. It’s only later that she starts to speak up, and he can’t handle it. It’s then that the focus shifts to her and we are curious to see how she’ll react to all these things, because she is obviously a voice of reason. It also happens that I had the same type of narration in my first film as well – so maybe this is just my taste.

Therefore it made sense for you to examine the impact of the financial crisis on your characters’ private lives?
An economic crisis can trigger others types of crises. When you add the economic crisis onto the everyday problems of a couple, it can trigger some “back stories” and bring them to the front. But also from the economic crisis of a couple you can see the crisis of the whole society, and in that case the couple functions as a representative of that society.

The current political situation in Turkey wasn’t brought up… why was that?
I decided to leave it for the third chapter of the trilogy.

In the first part of that trilogy, My Father’s Wings [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Kivanc Sezer
film profile
]
, you examined stuggles in capitalist society from the perspective of a working class man. The themes of this new film revolve around a middle class couple. Will the third chapter represent another perspective?
Yes, the idea of the trilogy – which is called the Housing Trilogy – is to show how the housing and construction industries affect the lives of working, middle and upper class people. The third film, called Heaven in a Heartless World, will be the story of a builder of the housing complex seen in the first two films. He is actually referred to during La Belle Indifference. My idea behind the trilogy is to show the workings of a system which operates on the three levels or classes of society. I want to examine how jobs affect our lives, while always having there the backdrop of Istanbul, which has become a concrete jungle in the last 30 years.

Stylistically the first two films are different, the first one being a realistic kind of drama and the second one more of an absurdist comedy. Will the third one also have its own special approach to the topic?
Yes, my intention for the third one is to do it as a thriller, therefore implementing three different genres in one trilogy.

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