Jin - Reha Erdem

Reha Erdem’s Jin, which proves an intriguing follow-up to Times and Winds (2006), My Only Sunshine (2008) and Kosmos (2010). Demonstrating once again, in collaboration with cinematographer Florent Herry, his genius for conveying meaning and atmosphere through environment, Erdem uses tranquil woodland to explore both the ongoing tensions between the Turks and the Kurds and the damage that humanity is inflicting upon nature.

Referencing fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood, Erdem also seeks to expose man’s bestial nature, while suggesting that innocence is rapidly becoming a rarity in the modern world. Slipping away from her guerilla unit, 17 year-old Deniz Hasgüler makes her way through a dense forest. She suggests that she needs to take care of her ailing grandmother, but she could just as easily be deserting because she is either tired of the constant sexual harassment of her brothers-in-arms or because she has grown disillusioned with the cause. Initially, the sounds of her unfamiliar surroundings unnerve her, even though she is used to the rattle of gunfire. But, as she walks on, Hasgüler soon comes to appreciate how much easier it is to commune with animals than humans. Yet, while she has no problem with the donkeys and stags she encounters, a falcon shrieks at her for stealing two eggs from her nest. However, when Hasgüler returns one, the grateful bird falls silent when a search party approaches.

Stealing some clothes, she leaves behind her uniform and tries to reclaim a sense of normalcy by purloining an exercise book. But Hasgüler feels more vulnerable as a civilian and is so shaken by a confrontation with a brown bear that she heads for the road and tries to hitch a lift. However, breaking cover leaves her prey to lustful men, while she also has to negotiate checkpoints along the route. Consequently, she ducks back into the security of the trees. But she cannot remain hidden forever and savage reality inevitably ruptures the beauty and serenity.

In the absence of dialogue, Erdem relies heavily on the sound design of Herve Guyader and the delicate score of Hildur Gudnadottir. But it’s the watchful performance of Deniz Hasgüler that makes pacifist eco-parable this so compelling, as she regards the flora and fauna with a respectful awe that not only betrays her youth, but also some of the horrors she must have witnessed in combat. However, the film feels more perfunctory when Hasgüler has to deal with her own species, as Erdem rather labours his points about misogynist Turkish machismo and the wider disregard for life and the landscape. Nevertheless, when it lingers in its magic realm, this proves visually beguiling until the shocking climactic act of destruction leaves a more indelible impression.

David Parkinson (Empire Online)

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