Undoubtedly one of the most bizarre features at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival is Turkish oddball drama Thou Gild’st the Even: a film that may strain the patience of some viewers but captivate others with its casual absurdity.
Onur Unlu’s film explores sorrow, hope, and the insanity of human nature through the life of a bored and depressed barber in a small Turkish town with two suns and three full moons. The people there have inherited extraordinary abilities. Cemal (Ali Atay) wanders through life despondent and unfulfilled whilst surrounded by an invisible teacher, an immortal doctor, and a beautiful girl who can stop time with a clap of her hands.
Beautifully shot in black and white with a kind of nonchalant regard for its weird moments, Thou Gild’st the Even is startling in its lack of pretention, events just occur and no particular weight is put on them. The film would make a dull little study into the mind of a loner if it were not for its touches of surrealism which lace the feature like finely warped filigree. This doesn’t just apply to the characters and their behaviours but the bizarre scenes that spring up around them: the pill-fuelled flight, the brazen assassination in the night, a disturbed serenade totally lacking in romantic endeavour, all these fall awkwardly into place like some ill-constructed child’s toy. However Unlu eventually pulls off a successful illustration of life in all its nuts, and sometimes heart-breaking, entirety.
When the film starts to strain patience with its casual non-committal kind of narrative, it draws the viewer in by presenting yet another strange character whose bizarre ability has taught them some life lesson they can impart to a man truly lost in his own mundane existence. Excellent casting, beautiful scoring, and a fine eye for humour in a black and white world, definitely ease the passing of this sometimes slow venture.
That’s the key to the film’s success: under the humour and weirdness there’s a story about a man’s life being told, a man who- for all intents and purposes- is totally ordinary besides his strange power. It’s a small town romance, a love story that documents jealousy and passion, family and friends, relationships and ultimately regret. Though time and again it finds such weird ways of relaying such everyday situations, the message will often pass by, only to be picked up later.
Though intriguing Thou Gild’st the Even is at many points tiresome and not an easy pill to swallow. However, maybe a little alienation is obligatory as part of an absurdist drama with a Twin Peaks kind of logic to it. For a film lacking in true drama, there’s a lot of heart and poignancy to this truly strange and comical vignette into extraordinary lives.
Dir. Onur Unlu
Stars. Ali Atay, Cengiz Bozkurt, Tansu Bicer, Demet Evgar, Serkan Keskin