Writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan gained international acclaim a few years ago thanks to his previous film, Distant, a Grand Jury Prize winner at Cannes. His latest release, Climates, also notched an award win at Cannes this year, furthering his exposure of Turkish cinema to the world stage. Both films tread common ground, focusing on starkly different individuals trying to find a connection between each other that might not exist, although Climates centers on romance instead of the familial struggle portrayed in Distant.
Climates traces the deteriorating relationship between middle-aged professor Isa (played by Ceylan) and his noticeably younger TV producer girlfriend Bahar (Ceylan’s real-life wife, Ebru Ceylan). There’s not much in common between them, so when Isa suggests they end their relationship he meets little resistance from Bahar. This break leads both of them in new directions, with Isa reconnecting with an old flame while Bahar pursues her career far away from home.
Based on his actions, Isa is portrayed as an unlikeable, selfish character. He decides to leave his girlfriend for no discernible reason other than general ruminations about their age gap and resulting lack of compatibility. He stalks an ex-girlfriend and forces himself on her while concurrently making her eat a nut he dropped on the floor, a questionable scene that gains him no points in his treatment of women. Finally, he stalks Bahar and tries to worm his way back into her life, an act of desperation so laughable that it’s painful to watch. Isa seemingly wants what he doesn’t have until he possesses it, then he doesn’t want it anymore. He shows no capacity for true love or dedication, so why would Bahar want anything to do with him?
As for Bahar, she’s given little to do other than stare off into space with a melancholy look on her face, with occasional teary jags that alternately make her appear either sad or possibly deranged. There’s no indication of how she met Isa, why she was ever attracted to him, or why she’s prone to emotional outbursts. Viewers can infer that her unhappiness is entirely the result of her relationship with Isa, making it even harder to understand why she would entertain the idea of reconnecting with him.