Reviewed by: Sarah Artt

This fourth feature from the director of Angel’s Fall (EIFF 2005) begins with a compelling sequence that culminates with a woman being suspended from a tree over a cauldron of boiling milk and expelling a live snake from her mouth. This is offered without comment and constitutes one of the many strange and poetic silences that permeate Kaplanoglu’s work. His characters are often hemmed in by circumstance and desperate to escape and this quality links Yusuf with the protagonist of Angel’s Fall, who yearns to leave her father’s house.

Yusuf (Selcuk) wants to write poetry, but he is seemingly condemned to a rural existence, helping his widowed mother sell the produce from their land and animals: handmade white cheese, walnuts, pomegranates, milk. When he asks his former teacher for help to publish his poetry, he discovers the older man is a washed-up drunk. When Yusuf visits a friend who has found work in the local mine, there is a poignancy to the pan that takes in his friend’s rough, filthy work clothes and how it contrasts with his eager clutching of the literary magazine that has published some of Yusuf’s work. There is a strong sense of a community of rural youth yearning for something else, searching the horizon and finding only a pit in the ground or the endless round of market day and milk delivery. When Yusuf travels to Izmir for a medical exam, he briefly meets a student and as they converse, it is clear their origins are different but a love of poetry and literature and a sense of intellectual curiosity unites them.

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There are many rich images on offer here: Yusuf devouring a pomegranate, the seeds and juice dripping from his hands; his discovery of a coffee cup placed upside down in its saucer - a suggestion that his mother has been considering her future and her fortune and is thinking of marrying again. Following the opening sequence, the film proceeds in a reasonably straightforward fashion, until Yusuf suffers an accident and then his actions begin to take on a distinctly dream-like quality. He follows his mother, convinced she is having an affair. The film’s final moments are a series of fragmented, transformative images that reinforce Yusuf as a figure who bursts with ideas and potential, but who has ultimately been robbed of his opportunities. Milk promises to be part of trilogy of films that includes Kaplanoglu’s previous feature Egg from 2007.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2009
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Coming-of-age drama about a young boy struggling to get by in a rural economy.
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Director: Semih Kaplanoglu

Writer: Semih Kaplanoglu

Starring: Basak Koklukaya, Melih Selcuk

Year: 2008

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Turkey, France, Germany


EIFF 2009

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