Node, Directed by Engin Poyraz
Node tells the story of a small Turkish fishing village losing its footing in a new world. The film reveals a society that, while perhaps once vital and vibrant, now struggles to survive. The remote village is on an island in the centre of a lake which the fishermen depend on for their livelihoods. In an unprecedented drought evocative of climate change, their lake is running dry. They wait, praying for rain, but the longer the lake goes without it the worse the situation gets for the villagers, who are driven to fish for younger and younger fish, depleting the population and virtually ensuring the demise of their village as they know it.
The natural environment that envelops this story decides the characters’ fates, and this is the film’s point of departure. Node frames nature’s vast spaces with human beings. Just as the villagers survive on the periphery of the lake’s bounty, the camera captures wide views of the water framed by the very people that fish from it. But in the wake of drought, their boats float unmanned in the water, rocked by the lake and boarded only by sun-drenched birds.
Three characters personify the history and future of the village: a boy, a young man, and an older man, all fishermen (or future fishermen). They want things to get better, but they also dream of leaving this place. They wait idly for the rain. Summoned by the call to prayer, the boy runs from his game of throwing stones into the lake. The older man prostrates himself on his prayer rug. At a nearby café, the young man smokes a cigarette. All three spend most of their time dawdling. The boy sits perfectly still in an unmoving boat leaning on the shore, facing the water, staring away from us and into the lake, seemingly deep in thought. When the older man appears, he also stares silently and pensively into the water. The young man does plenty of reflecting as well, the only difference being that he always has a cigarette in his hand.
Occasionally a narrator interjects, giving voice to the characters’ thoughts:
‘We knew the spring which we didn’t meet would not return. Truth was different, and the days when we rise from this green flora. Yet, our souls would open their eyes all at once. Ice crystals would be splattered on the eyelashes of every newborn. Winter would come and we’d migrate with it.’
Even in this warm Mediterranean climate, winter is coming.
There is not much of a story, though. Its details must be gleaned from subtle hints and obscure symbolism, leaving too much to the imagination and much of the meaning inaccessible. The film takes its time, luxuriating in beautiful images of the Turkish countryside but also plodding along without any forward motion. The story does not flow but rather stumbles with fits and starts and jarring interventions by the narrator. The characters do little, and the meaning of their actions is cryptic. Most of the film consists of the three protagonists (who never speak) gazing silently into the distance, accompanied by a melancholy flute or cello. The boy occasionally does something interesting, but he’s the exception. The young man travels hither and thither, even boarding a boat to traverse the lake, fighting his way through thick water plants — but when he gets to his destination, all he does is smoke another cigarette. The climate may preclude the productivity of the fishermen, and there may be nothing to do, but must the cinematic presentation be so dull? Sometimes even the flutist sounds tired.
Filmed entirely in black and white with uniformly static cinematography, Node feels dated and frozen, purposefully eliciting a sense of societal decay. It presents a picture of village life and the countryside, and offers moments of beauty and symbolism. A fish struggling for oxygen on dry land and a boat tied tightly to the shore serve as images for the people themselves, who depend on the environment to sustain them but also want to escape. The boy, the young man, and the older man personify the passage of time in a place where time seems to stand still. The story’s slow movement is part of this effect, but its symbolism doesn’t quite make up for its dullness. ■
Runtime: 20 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Short
Find out more
Find out more about this film and the filmmaker on the pages for Node and Engin Poyraz in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and on the film’s website. Node (Dügüm) has screened internationally at venues including the Västerås Film Festival in Sweden, the Jehlum Short Film Festival in India, the Sirius International Indie Film Festival in China, the Cinavana International Film Festival in Turkey, the Blackbird Film Festival in the United States, the monthly edition of the Miami Independent Film Festival, the Los Angeles CineFest, and the Short Film Corner of the Cannes Film Festival.
Node is the winner of the award for Best Screenwriter of the Month at the 12 Months Film Festival, the winner of Best Director of 2015 at the Blackbird Film Festival, and has been nominated for awards including Best Drama Short Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Editor at other international festivals. The film has received critical acclaim from The Monthly Film Festival, the 12 Months Film Festival, and the Largo Film Awards.
Engin Poyraz is the film’s writer and director. He is an independent Turkish filmmaker who has studied international affairs, politics, and economics at Gediz University in Turkey. Node is his first professional short-length film. Connect with Engin Poyraz on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
Watch the trailer for Node:
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: A fisherman on the lake in ‘Node’. Courtesy; Engin Poyraz.