Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"Rural teaching gives us shades of Wake In Fright, the continual quest for a lack of discomfort and intermittent mobile signal an echo of Parasite." | Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

The rattle of the classroom stove and the tearing of paper to light it start the day. From below the structure of wood awaiting kindling. The pupils hunched, children fresh from the weekend in their coats in the cold. There is a smell. A darkness in this place of learning. It isn't the right weather for painting. Faded everywhere. Light filtered through the falling snow, reflected up past the empty trees and the undressed stone.

Steam from tea. Smoke from cigarettes. Breath becoming crystals in the dim light of the back half of the year. The public address system rings out across the sound of children playing, kicking bugs. There will be dynamite used at the quarry at three. It's bookended by an electric chime as one would hear in a shopping centre or train station. It's a normality of sorts, up in the hills.

"The moisture" is how the subtitles translate it, but that's within a wider sense. Humidity doesn't quite cover it. There's a wider unease, disdain. Rural teaching gives us shades of Wake In Fright, the continual quest for a lack of discomfort and intermittent mobile signal an echo of Parasite. The better word might be "damp".

Not just of candles, of ambition "perhaps we cannot change the destiny of our land" they say. "Once the darkness is inside you", in the prosecutor's office. Fire-damp one kind, of squibs against that explosive quarrying. Damp in terms of commitment. Not wet, not dry. Conditions for flourishing, but for nothing good. No positive connotation in damp, save perhaps for moss and mould.

A landscape of damp. Valley roads that loop like dropped string. Quarries a terraced wound in the world, in the foreground but still fairly dwarfing the world around them. The colours muted, paint literally watered down. Low winter sun through low winter windows in low winter buildings. Low winter classrooms and low winter eyes, low winter motives for the low winter missing. Tears don't come, from damp eyes. Nor resolution, nor should it.

The slow passage through desolate Anatolia recalled for me a documentary of isolation, The One Man Village, but also the plodding fatalism of The Turin Horse. Writer Muhammed Furkan Dasbilek has created something as bleak as either and Turan Haste's direction has breathed life to it. Not just the fog of underheated car window, but that damp of lung, poverty's deoxygenation, mine-damp, that suffocation, lingering. That which consumes and becomes consumption. That which destroys.

Throughout there is an air of neglect, but one created rather than one perceived. Carefully constructed by those behind the camera, embodied by Mucahit Kocak's performance as the teacher Ishak. Authority and stubborness, hunger changing the breath, breath changing the hunger. The violences of masculinity, authority, bureaucracy. I have often and will likely ever rail against the way titles are translated, the names of things have a magic to them. "The Moisture" does not convey the systemic issues of 'damp', the nagging, the need. Rutubet has them though, in word and deed. Damp feeds rich soil for darkness, and the film blooms in its cold touch.

Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2022
Share this with others on...
Rutubet packshot
A teacher is grappling with child custody issues and a mischievous child in his class.

Director: Turan Haste

Writer: Muhammed Furkan Dașbilek

Starring: Mücahit Koçak, Okan Selvi, Muhammed Mayda, Elif Eylül Yeșilyurt, Baran Salman, Türkyilmaz Sarikaya, Yașar Akman, Mukaddes Kurmuș, Takup Güvenilir

Year: 2022

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: Turkey


Venice 2022

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Other
Snow In September