Ceylan’s Pear Tree as a treatise on bullshitting

August 2, 2018 Comments Off on Ceylan’s Pear Tree as a treatise on bullshitting

Ceylan’s Pear Tree continues the director’s project of uncovering the complexities of human communication.  It is a brilliant, insightful piece.  Its point, minutely analyzed, and portrayed and with frightening verismilitude, is that the situation in the city of Çan (where the action takes place) is hopeless; as it is in all of provincial Turkey; as it is in all of provincial humanity; as it is in all humanity — because hardly ever anything gets done; and hardly ever anythign gets done because of a problem in human communication; namely, that:  every time anyone begins to address a problem, his interlocutors launch into an elaborate game of dissumulation, deflection, confusion, a muddling of waters; in other words, they take evasive action referred to most commonly as bullshitting.

The film is a series of such conversations, but the best example perhaps is when the hero approaches a village priest (imam) about some money the imam has borrowed from his grandparents and is not paying back; the imam responds by provoking a wide-ranging, rambling, confusing conversation about the Holy Quran with another cleric, also present.  The conversation goes on and on and on eventually drawing in the hero, and nothing gets resolved or decided, no conclusions are made, no points are conceded — or even made.  Which, of course, was exactly the Imam’s objective:  to deflect the matter of the borrowed money.  Which he managed, as we all so well do.

There are only two problems with this film:  the first is that I am already familiar with the matter; I am on record saying that 9 out of 10 times when a member of our species opens his mouth, he does so to bullshit, whether knowingly or not; and by saying so I probably underestimate;  so, for me, Ceylan’s brilliant illustrations of this phenomenon, while I appreciate their brilliance, are… tiresome.  Call it a perversion, but once I have figured something out, I move on to its consequences, and the consequences of the consequences, and spending 3 hours to watch very finally polished illustrations of what I already know seems to me like a waste of time.

The second problem is that the audience does not understand it.  Regarding the scene described above, a critic wrote (his name shall remain mercifully unnamed), that “Ceylan’s film features philosophical disputes about the Quran”.  Do you undertand?  The critic did not understand what this scene was about!  So what did he decide to do?  Why, the obvious, he decided it to deflect the matter by… bullshitting us.

The Pear Tree, for all its visual beauty, makes me think of Flaubert’s late works, Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues, and Bouvard et Pécuchet:  a kind of encyclopedic effort to document human stupidity.  As such, it is destined to bore some and evade all others.




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