Bal (Honey) – Movie Review – Golden Bear Berlinale 2010


Bal was the winner of the 60th Berlinale in 2010. What the jury saw in this film by Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu was a poetic exploration of childhood in rural Turkey, told by images and sounds capturing the pure nature of it surroundings without any artificial interventions.

Yusuf is a boy living with his parents in the forest in the country side of Turkey. He has trouble at school where he spends his recess time alone and he has a close relationship with his father, a beekeeper whose job is to collect honey in dangerous tall trees. Yusuf accompanies his father in this tasks until some plague has scared the bees away and Yusuf´s father must look for the honey somewhere else. During this time Yusuf is left alone with his mother, but she fails to connect with his own boy. When Yusuf´s father is gone missing from his honey seeking trek, they depart to look for him without success.

The story is told in a very slow, passive and patient rhythm, relying solely on the inner conflicts of its characters without following any contrived plot. There is no music score and the dialogue is stripped down to the minimum. The soundtrack is provided by sounds of birds, wind blowing, trees, fire cracking and other natural sounds. We are witnesses of the routine of rural Turkey and their customs and we connect to Yusuf in an intimate way by coming into his quiet, simple and unspoiled world.

This is not a movie for the masses, there is no action, dramatic structure, music, effects, sex or any other element we can found in modern films. This is a movie for the patient, for the reflective, the curious and unrushed. The one who will connect to the stunning beauty of the landscapes portrayed by Baris Ozbicer´s beautiful cinematography.

“Bal” forms part of a trilogy by Kaplanoglu started in reverse. The first one “Yumurta” (Egg) follows Yusuf in his maturity, the second one “Süt” (Milk) follows him during the adolescent years and finaly “Bal” (Honey) studies his childhood. Even if “Bal” can be enjoyed as a standalone film, it would be very interesting to see this character evolving through the other two.

Bal (Honey) – Drama, 2010 – Dir.: Semih Kaplanoglu – Starring Bora Altas, Erdal Besikçioglu, Tülin Özen – 103 min.


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About xagudo

Xavier Agudo is a Berlin-based Venezuelan filmmaker.