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BERLINALE 2011 Competition / Germany-Turkey

Some things are best left unsaid in Our Grand Despair

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Some things are best left unsaid in Our Grand Despair

When, at the end of a film, a glance exchanged between two men and a pretty young girl as she eats a slice of bread with feta and strawberry jam speaks volumes, it’s because the emotional journey it retraces is as subtle as it is convincing. Three years after the screening of his debut film, Summer Book, in the Forum section at the Berlinale, Turkish director Seyfi Teoman returns in competition with Our Grand Despair [+see also:
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, which is adapted from Baris Bicakci’s same-named novel and was developed at the Cannes Cinéfondation Workshop. The film was co-produced by Bulut Film with Berlin-based unafilm and Dutch company Circe Film.

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The action – if we can talk of action, for the film describes the emergence of feelings more than it revolves around actions – is set in Ankara. After their parents’ death in an accident, young and fresh-faced student Nihal is entrusted by her brother, who lives abroad, to a "couple" of old friends: cheerful Çetin and the more poetic Ender, whose friendship, is "like a romance", attentive and joyous.

When the tearful young girl arrives at their house, they feel like two dads towards her, but as they exchange stories and share meals and strolls together (three motifs that heartily punctuate the whole film), they get to know each other and develop a tender complicity. They suddenly start to exchange another type of glance and these three fervent story and anecdote-tellers feel the need to leave things unsaid.

Çetin and Ender both fall in love with Nihal, and while at first they are delighted to be able to share the lovely images she has imprinted on their minds, they both know that for lots of reasons, nothing more can come of it. The film contains some nice dialogues, but the most important things remain unspoken and hinge on the very different but equally remarkable presences of the three lead actors – although the appearance, twice in the film, of Çetin’s brother, serves, in an interesting way, as a prologue then as an epilogue that brings the movie full circle, accompanied by another outburst of tears from Nihal, similar to the previous one except that everything has changed.

When Nihal asks Ender why, in "Of Mice and Men", Lennie strokes Curley’s wife’s hair, he replies that it’s a bit complicated, that it’s neither this, nor that. In its subtle silences, everyday gestures and glances that replace words, Our Grand Despair doesn’t present clear-cut, well-defined situations – moreover, what is men’s obsession with wanting to grasp everything so clearly? asks Nihal. The beauty of the love triangle played out here hinges on a delightful balance, woven with patience and affection, and this balance is suddenly found in all its nuances in this simple slice of bread with feta and strawberry jam.

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(Translated from French)

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