A Film a Week - Kerr

 previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

Sometimes a proper gem of a movie does not get recognized the way it should, for whatever reason. In the case of Tayfun Pirselimoglu’s newest film “Kerr”, it is actually baffling that the film had a very limited tour of festivals and got very little reviews from the foreign language press. Even “Kerr” being the Turkish official submission to the Oscars race seems like a left-field choice and a very large exception to the rule. We got to see it in all of its brilliance at Belgrade FEST.

A man named Can (Erdem Şenocak) gets stuck in the town where his father resided, operated a tailor shop and died. He came for the funeral, but when he wanted to simply go back to his life, he witnesses a murder at the train station’s men’s room. The killer does not even blink, so our guy alarms the police. However, the police, the coastal town officials and esteemed citizens seem more interested in his whereabouts and the reasons for visit than in investigating the crime that happened.

Soon enough, the situation gets even more strange: the town is put into a strict quarantine due to the case of rabid dogs attacking people and killing them, and it is only the matter of time when our man gets indicted for something. The strangeness, straight from Kafka’s “The Trial”, is even further laced with other oddities: the house our unfortunate hero inherited leaks, his father’s old car cannot start, but it does not prevent it from being stolen, and seemingly the only woman in town (Jale Arikan) asks philosophical questions and answers the simple ones with even more philosophical counter-questions.

Tayfun Pirselimoglu is a rare case of a filmmaker: a writer by trade with a painter’s eye, which actually makes him a perfect man for the job. But in this adaptation of his own novel, he exposes himself as a proper renaissance personality able to connect the dots between the different references from different branches of arts into a work that is both poetic, symbolic, terrifying and life-like. The literary ones are probably the easiest to spot: our man might be in the position of Josef K, but he is more akin to Camus’ Meursault from “The Stranger” in his detachment from the world.

Cinematic ones can also be pretty obvious: a spoonful of Lynch’s surrealism (the abandoned amusement park by the sea and the crumbling hotel, for instance), soaked in Trakovsky’s poeticism (the constant rain, decay, wet floors and walls), with a quote from Kubrick here and there (the bar scene seems straight out of “Shining”), and a sprinkle of Jarmusch and his identity crisis / smalltown environment-themed movies. Lighting-wise, we can see the influences of the renaissance and baroque painters, from Da Vinci, via Caravaggio and the Flemish veduttes to the neon-lit works of modern art (kudos to the Greek DoP Andreas Sinasos), complete with bewitching framing, the use of perspective and the alternation between the different angles.

Şenocak (glimpsed in “Burning Days”) is the perfect cast for the lost and hapless Can who cannot do much other than accepting his fate in the nightmare that surrounds him. Jale Arikan provides the enigmatic presence that could be play out different ways, while the casting of the supporting characters (Pirselimoglu’s regular Riz Akin, among others) is fitting for the environment, but no less intriguing for that matter.

All things considered, “Kerr” is a film on the verge of the masterpiece, a rich tapestry of the very well known and the eye-opening details, connections, references, metaphors and symbols. It is a hell of a ride and something that simply has to be experienced.

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