The international joint production SIBEL is a captivating, incisive look at the Turkish countryside that addresses universal themes with a twist. We reveal more about the film in our review.
The Plot Summary
25-year-old Sibel lives with her widowed father and younger sister in an isolated Turkish village in the mountains near the Black Sea. Since Sibel has been mute since birth and can only communicate using the whistling language that is traditional in her home region, she is largely avoided and not taken seriously by the other villagers. When she is not working in the fields or helping her father, she mostly spends her time alone in the neighboring forest, where she keeps company with a hermit and hunts with great enthusiasm. She has it in her head to catch a wolf that is supposed to be roaming around there and scaring the women of the village. One day in the forest she meets a deserter named Ali, who is wounded and afraid of being discovered. The man who constantly feels threatened, vulnerable and yet resilient is the first to respond to her impartially…
Movie explanation of the ending
The couple Cagla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti, who have been directing together for years, say they come up with new film ideas through chance encounters. After the drama “Ningen” from 2013, which was told by a managing director who was declared crazy and was inspired by a chance acquaintance in Japan, “Noor” followed just a year later, the genesis of which took place in the wilderness of the Himalayas. The latest directorial work by the cosmopolitans who live in Paris, Istanbul and Tokyo was also developed on the basis of coincidences. In 2003, the couple purchased a 2,000-page book called “Languages of Humanity,” which only makes an aside about a village in northwestern Turkey where some residents continue to communicate using a whistled language that is otherwise extinct. In 2004, Zencirci and Giovanetti visited this village, out of an “almost ethnographic curiosity,” as they say. During their visit, they met a young woman who the filmmakers had the impression of being mute and therefore only able to communicate in this whistling language, while the rest of the village speaks Turkish as well as the whistling language. One day the young woman disappeared into the surrounding wilderness – which led Zencirci and Giovanetti to imagine her story.
Sibel (Damla Sönmez) and Ali (Erkan Kolçak Köstendil) in the forest.
Although the genesis of “Sibel” is similar to that of “Noor” and “Ningen,” this film is still a novelty for Zencirci and Giovanetti: previously they worked exclusively with amateur actors; The protagonists of their films were people they met and who played themselves in a filmic reappraisal of their story – similar to Chloé Zhao’s “The Rider”. In “Sibel,” however, Zencirci and Giovanetti rely on a mix of amateurs and professional actors for the first time. And this is noticeable in the film – in the best possible sense: This drama is permeated by the naturalistic, unforced aura that characterizes successful films with amateur actors. Zencirci and Giovanetti surround their title heroine with a very authentic environment that acts completely without affect, which is why many scenes in “Sibel” have an almost documentary effect. Nevertheless, emotional turning points in this story have a mimic sharpness and conciseness that is difficult to achieve with non-experts, which is why it is worth it that Zencirci and Giovanetti have deviated from their usual approach. The Turkish film and series star Damla Sönmez gives Sibel a subtle force and fire that gently but emphatically shapes the film. For example, when the loner storms away after an argument with her father, her eyes literally glow, and yet Sönmez remains reserved in her acting, continuing to let it be felt that Sibel doesn’t want to, or even can’t, exaggerate herself too much for countless reasons.
Which leads us to another strength of this quietly but powerfully told drama, that of cinematographer Eric Devin (“The Sound of the Bells”) in wide, gently but almost constantly moving images: “Sibel” is an extremely complex social and character portrait that tells a simple, exemplary story, but whose themes and motifs have universal application, rather than just being applicable to a region of Turkey be. We rarely see such a differentiated portrayal of the Turkish province in the cinema, but it does not skimp on criticism of archaic role models. And she ensures that, despite its fiery conclusion, “Sibel” remains a subtly, resonantly developing drama instead of relying on a short, intense mallet dialectic. The authors Cagla Zencirci, Guillaume Giovanetti and Ramata Sy sketch Sibel’s initially only reference person, her father Emin (Emin Gürsoy), very delicately and with many small barbs that make him a very exciting, lifelike figure. He is characterized by a kind of intuitive open-mindedness: Contrary to social norms, after his wife’s death, he made no effort to find a new wife and bring more children into the world. Instead, the general store owner and mayor worries about his existing family and supports his eldest daughter. He gives Sibel support in a world that despises her and allows her to lead a largely self-determined life – so it is he who serves visitors instead of handing over this task to Sibel in accordance with the unwritten rules that surround him.
Family dinner with Sibel, Fatma (Elit Iscan) and Emin (Emin Gürsoy).
And when he is criticized by a village woman for his single existence because it is inappropriate for a man of his status and age, he cleverly and eloquently uses the old-fashioned way of thinking of his interlocutor against her. Nevertheless, he barks curt instructions at his daughters when they watch TV together, wants to marry Sibel’s younger sister at a young age and does not tolerate the slightest form of criticism from his eldest on this matter – just as he shows no consideration whatsoever for her when he speaks to her with the police in their presence described as retarded. He does this to keep her out of trouble, but he doesn’t show any remorse or empathy at this moment. Through Emin’s complex nature, an unobtrusive but stringently rising arc of tension builds up: In which direction will Emin’s duality develop when Sibel is confronted by her new reference person, the deserter Ali (Erkan Kolçak Köstendil with a sensitive harshness) who is hiding in the forest? , developed backbone and so her grateful, reserved and independent manner gradually gained more fervor and self-pride? How will he react when he learns the reason for Sibel’s change? And what impact will this have on how the rest of the village deals with Sibel, who has so far fought for a small comfort zone from her double-edged situation?
Because even if the more hateful community members may view Sibel as a strange freak of nature and an eternal child, she can take advantage of her special position – for example, she can dress more tomboyishly and walk around without a headscarf without attracting further disrespect. And no one would think of getting married – which, although it carries with it the cold implication that she has no value, gives her a freedom in planning her life that other women in the village do not enjoy. From this field of tension between open-mindedness and oppression, from the chains that Sibel’s muteness puts on her and from ambiguous advantages, not only the touching character portrait of a courageous, stubborn and warm-hearted woman emerges. Even without the wolf motif, which is sometimes clumsily handled, “Sibel” is more: Sibel’s inner conflict as to whether she can decide to come to terms with her small comfort zone or to go through the rocky path of change, and the conflicts this triggers with those around her an inspiring, stimulating parable of emancipation and resistance. All of this supported by an outstanding leading actress.
Sibel is looking for peace and quiet in the valley.
Conclusion: “Sibel” is a strongly acted, nuanced drama about emancipation, resistance and the many complex, double-edged peculiarities that life can throw at you. Great.
“Sibel” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from December 27, 2018.