Berlin 2013: ‘Jîn’ review


From visionary director Reha Erdem (Times and Winds, Kosmos) comes Jîn (2013), an environmental parable that uses the bitter Turkish-Kurdish conflict as a universal metaphor for the destructive disposition of humanity upon a frail and delicate natural world. Narratively influenced by the tender storytelling of fairy tales, Jîn feels like a contemporary adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, with the film’s titular protagonist (played brilliantly by Deniz Hasgüler) materialising transcendentally from behind the camouflage of the Turkish woodlands – complete with her red headscarf and surrounded by the serene beauty of nature.

Jîn is part of a small Kurdish guerrilla militia trekking through the opulent landscape. One night she makes her escape, heading through this treacherous woodland unaccompanied. Despite the numerous natural predators impeding her voyage to take care of her ailing grandmother, it’s the human presence of the Turkish army that emerges as the film’s actual ‘big, bad wolf’.

Erdem’s ethereal reverie of rolling steppes and lush forest is exquisitely captured by the director’s longtime collaborator Florent Herry, whose soaring camera majestically captures the awe-inspiring splendour of this picturesque province. Enhanced further by Hildur Guðnadóttir’s elegant, unobtrusive score, Jîn is an impressive portrait of the biological vivacity of nature, rudely punctuated by the sound of human conflict. Throughout Erdem’s ecological parable, it’s the world of men that’s candidly portrayed as wild and brutal, whilst the tender and compassionate animals (donkey, bear, stag) which enter Jîn’s world, reflecting an ecology astutely resigned to the destructive faculties of mankind.

Sadly, despite this elegantly fashioned symphony of flora and fauna enduring within this rolling landscape, Jîn quickly becomes a rather exhaustive experience, its excursions into civilisation consisting of a repetitive blend of her struggling to hitch a ride, experiencing difficulties passing through heavily guarded checkpoints and avoiding the sexual advances of lecherous men. When Jîn ventures out to the forest’s surrounding towns and communities, Erdem’s gracefully brooding narrative unfortunately flatlines, with the desperately melancholic atmosphere of misogynistic and autocratic harassment void of any of the rural beauty that bookends it.

Unable to successfully align its duel perspectives of a world decaying under the strain of mankind’s destructive influence, Erdem’s Jîn is a visually arresting cinematic storybook that, whilst dazzling through its rich and captivating aesthetic, culminates in a far too laborious experience due to its near wordless script and revolving door of conflict and misery.

The 2013 Berlin Film Festival runs from 7-17 February. For more of our Berlinale coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble