Film Movement – Year 11 Film 10: Pelin Esmer’s “Watchtower”

watchtower-06three-stars15If you’re looking for an uplifting drama, look elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a calm-pacing story dealing with pain, anguish, inner turmoil, and ultimately hope, well, here ya go.

What begins as a quiet character study of two troubled souls ends with the stuff of which most melodramas strive on. Nihat (Olgun Simsek) is a newly assigned watchtower person whose introverted demeanor bodes perfectly with his surroundings, the desolate and oh so picturesque Turkish mountainside, of which I have to add is beautifully shot, so well shot in fact, you can practically smell the pine needles. [Side note: I think it’s time to bring our Christmas tree to the curb.] At the bottom of Nihat’s minimally designed duel story cabin of solitude lies a small village in where Seher (Nilay Erdonmez) resides. Against her parents wishes to study, Seher has taken a very low paying gig with the local busing company. And like Nihat, she too is of an introverted nature. Eventually these two kindred souls wind up sharing more than just a passing hello, but not before we, the viewers, are put through the ringer and forced to share the pain of having witnessing an unassisted birth take place in a dingy basement. Make sure you’re not eating spaghetti with tomato sauce during this scene as I stupidly did.

While Watchtower does offer a thin line of hope, one has to first wade through a slew of darkly toned melodrama in order to see it. For the most part this wading wasn’t a problem. In fact, with its long takes, slow camera pans, and always interesting framing, I found the journey to have a nice meditative quality to it. The story just has such an unusual arc to it, one in which its ending would be most other film’s meat and potatoes, that it almost bares an immediate rewatching, but not before I go outside and get some fresh air first. At a slick 96 minutes this film is easily one of the most exhausting films under two hours to sit through, and I don’t say that as a negative criticism.

I’m sure this film has already, or will no doubt eventually garner comparisons to the latest slow building critically acclaimed Turkish drama, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, both for its country of origin and its inchworm crawl pacing, and if it doesn’t, well I’m going to do it right now. Fans of OUATIA should enjoy this one, however they also shouldn’t expect something better. Watchtower is really good. OUATIA is really great.

I apologize for ending this review on a cheap comparison but hey, “It just happened that way”.


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Categories: Reviews

One Comment on “Film Movement – Year 11 Film 10: Pelin Esmer’s “Watchtower””

  1. May 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    This movie starts off slow but even at first you can feel the pain of the characters and see it in their faces. I felt the isolation, fear and sadness these characters were dealing with. The almost hopeless day after day of just getting through it.
    Beautifully filmed, it takes the viewer through the countryside and you almost know what is troubling the main character…you almost know he has lost family and is being eaten alive by it.
    The birth scene is so powerful and real that you are in the room with this woman. It was one of the greatest scenes and most believable that I have viewed in a long time. I have to say this is really a fine movie and I was really pulled into it.

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