From Reha Erdem, the celebrated director of Times and Winds (2006), comes Kosmos (2010), a confounding, yet beautiful film, which only furthers the burgeoning reputation of the Turkish film industry as a thriving breeding ground for imaginative and innovative arthouse cinema.
Kosmos (Sermet Yesil) arrives in a sleepy rural village under a veil of mystery. His first act is saving a small boy from drowning, a deed which rewards him with the gracious hospitality of the locals and the affections of the boys sister Neptun (Turku Turan) – despite his eccentric and dishevelled demeanour. Word soon spreads that he’s blessed (or perhaps cursed) with supernatural healing powers, however, he’s far from the archetypal image of a spiritual saviour, deciding to steal from this insular community rather than work to repay their generosity. Soon, the village’s population begins to tire of his peculiar ways, seeing him as little more than just another example of the destructive force of foreign influences.
It’s hard to tell exactly what Kosmos’ arrival within this sleepy village community is precisely a metaphor for. He could be an example of Turkey’s reluctance to separate their evolved western sensibilities from an archaic religious framework, or even the fear of the external effects of the crumbling European community which surrounds the country – either way it makes for a fascinating post viewing discussion, with this curious protagonist as equally heroic as he is repulsive.
Capturing the raw natural beauty of the surrounding Turkish landscape, Erdem’s elegantly snow-capped composition presents the audience with a mesmerising backdrop for the film’s curious action to unfold. Constantly allowing the nature that surrounds this quaint province to sporadically infect the film’s harrowing subject matter, Erdem has created a film with all the visceral urgency of the most profound and eye capturing photography.
Combine this artistic visual flare with an unconventional and penetrating soundtrack and you have all the tropes required of a substantial piece of art-house filmmaking. Erdem allows the brooding soundscapes of Canadian experimental rock group A Silver Mt. Zion to converge with a clever use of non-diegetic sounds and erroneous animal cries to create a confounding cacophony of noise, culminating in an unsettling, yet strangely beguiling atmosphere of ambiguity.
Kosmos takes the bizarre animal fixation of Athina Tsangari’s Attenberg (2010) and blends it with the languid existential fabric of Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) to create one of this year’s most unique and mystifying films. Kosmos will undeniably be far too demanding and surreal for even the most astute and shrewd world cinema fans. However, if you enjoy films that push past the boundaries of conventional cinema, then Kosmos is a fascinating Smörgåsbord board of convoluted themes and ideas exhibited through some of the most profoundly beautiful visuals you’ll see all year.