Alternate weathers: how the films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan think about nature and technology

2017-01-30T22:36:12Z (GMT) by 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.