Ramin Matin has a lot to be proud of in his sophomore feature. On the surface, The Impeccables (Kusursuzlar in Turkish) is a quiet but powerful study of sibling relationships. But there is something much more sinister at play in this beautifully shot and, for lack of a better word, impeccably acted drama. Revealing itself subtly as the film progresses, it is a subject that is not often highlighted in Turkish cinema and it was refreshing to see it being tackled in such a candid way by Matin and scriptwriter, Emine Yıldırım. I won’t spoil what it is for you but I strongly recommend you get to a cinema in Turkey to see the film (or wait for the DVD release later in the year).
The film is set in Ceşme, a summer resort town on the Aegean. It is May and two sisters from Istanbul, Lale (Ipek Türktan) and Yasemin (Esra Bezen Bilgin), are staying in the summer cottage which belonged to their late grandmother. After five years of minimal communication, these two women come on a holiday together and it is not really clear why. Yasemin is relaxed but energetic – going for morning runs, swimming in the pristine water, cooking dinner. Lale is reserved, timid, hiding behind a large hat and dark sunglasses. At the beginning of the film, there is very little dialogue. Matin credits his editor Theron Patterson for creating the desired rhythm between visuals and audio. ‘The lack of dialogue at the start strengthens the feeling that something is amiss and also establishes the languorous routine of the sisters,’ Matin says. With the arrival of the sisters’ neighbour, Kerim (Ibrahim Selim), the dynamics between the sisters change. The past begins to unravel, the arguments start and the devastating secret they are both harbouring erupts in the final scenes.
Yasemin (Esra Bezen Bilgin), left and Lale (Ipek Türktan), right
Yıldırım told his long-time friend and business partner Matin about the script back in 2008. Matin jumped at the opportunity to make a film with strong, three-dimensional female characters which he says is a rarity in Turkish cinema and even on the international arena. The chemistry between the two actresses was what impressed me most about the film. Matin tells me that when he was casting, he kept the importance of this chemistry in mind and was very lucky to find two experienced actresses who already knew and liked each other. Indeed, the individual performances of Türktan and Bilgin are outstanding but watching them together you are convinced they are sisters. Bilgin, who won the Best Actress gong at the 4th Malatya Film Festival for her efforts, has a strong pedigree in theatre – she is the daughter of Ankara stage actor Metin Bilgin and the wife of theatre director Mehmet Ergen (founder of the Arcola Theatre in London and the Talimhane Theatre in Istanbul). Türktan also has substantial theatre experience and is a favourite on Turkish television.
I ask Matin about the title of the film, which he tells me is ironic. ‘It refers to the expectations and pressure put on women to be “perfect” especially in patriarchal societies such as Turkey. Women are expected to act in accordance with the morals of our very conservative society. Of course, no woman can live like that. On another level, the title refers to a certain upper middle-class in Turkey which considers itself “European” and modern and demands the rest of the country to adhere to their idea of perfection.’
The film is also visually stunning and the choice of location obviously helps. ‘The visual language of the film is my first concern as director. I start designing the basic ideas for lighting, framing and composition as early as the writing process,’ Matin says. Choosing Çeşme was both a practical and an artistic decision. Both Matin and Yıldırım know the town well so it made it easy during the writing process to discuss familiar locations. Visually, Matin has always felt that, ‘Çeşme was a bit eerie. Even though it looks like a beautiful seaside town, when you look closely you notice that the nature is almost arid, the relentless wind makes for a strange atmosphere and it feels very isolated when it is the off-season. I wanted to use that ghostly emptiness to create an unsettling, tense atmosphere that is at odds with what one would normally expect from such a place.’
The film was also a favourite on the national festival circuit. It won Best Film and Best Director at the 2013 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and Best Director at the FİLMYÖNE Director’s Guild Awards. It is playing in Istanbul, Ankara, Eskişehir and Bursa until the end of January. An additional one-week release in early February is anticipated in Istanbul and Ankara. Fortunately for our readers, all theatrical releases are subtitled in English. The DVD will come out later in the year.
Click here to see the trailer.