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Honey

Liza Dezfouli

MADMAN: Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Semih Kaplanoğlu’s gently-paced drama is a beguiling depiction of the innocence and fascination of childhood.
Honey
Honey, the story of an only child living in a remote mountainous region of Turkey, is a film which calmly insists you experience it on its own terms.

The winner of the Golden Bear at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, this is a slow moving work with very little dialogue. The viewer experiences the world of the boy, Yusuf (Bora Altas), at his pace, a world delicately balancing on the sensitive, idiosyncratic bond he shares with his father, Yakup (Erdal Besikçioglu), a bee keeper. Yakop accepts and understands his son and they communicate in whispers, but the boy’s silence troubles his mother.

School is hard for Yusuf because he can’t read aloud in front of his classmates without stuttering, although at home, reading to his father, he has no problem. Yusuf is agonisingly sensitive; he can only watch through the classroom window at the other kids playing outside. He is most at home with his father in the forest, gazing up as Yakup places new bee hives high in the treetops. We look up with him at the forest trees; they are tall and powerful like his father. We experience Yusuf’s world as he does, both inhabiting it and removed from it at once, an oddly voyeuristic yet interior perspective. This is the extraordinary thing about this film, how it draws you into Yusuf’s world, all the while reminding you that you’re watching a movie. No music is needed to enhance the atmosphere. There is a fine circular movement, the opening scenes foreshadowing the final scene depicting Yusuf’s loneliness.

Honey is built up with achingly beautiful images. The internal palette of Yusuf’s family home matches the colours of the world outside, whereas the classroom environment appears overly harsh and bright. The camerawork is unique, creating a pronounced and lovely aesthetic. Long, still camera shots, including single items of stunning detail, display a forest world of singular beauty. The viewer is placed in a scene then must wait until the natural rhythms of life come into play. Thus we understand Yusuf belongs to his environment; how experience is his only reality and words are purely academic to him.

DVD extras are minimal, consisting only of a short trailer with a voice-over that doesn’t occur in the film and a promo for other Madman films.

Four stars

Honey
Directed by Semih Kaplanoğlu
Starring Bora Atlaş, Erdal Beşikcoğlu, Tulin Őzen
Turkey/Germany, 2010, 103 mins
Rated G
Madman Entertainment

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Liza Dezfouli has been reviewing film, live performance, books and occasionally music for over a decade. She writes a blog under her own name and another, somewhat less-measured one called WhenMrWrongfeelsSoRight. She creates work for the stage herself every now and then and can occasionally be seen in shows or in short films. For more: www.lizadezfouli.com.