by Fabien Lemercier
- Encounter in Paris with the Turkish filmmaker on the occasion of the French release of his first feature film, the widely-acclaimed Beyond the Hill.
Encounter in the Parisian offices of Memento Films with a Turkish filmmaker we should all keep an eye on, and who lists among his influences Kubrick, Fassbinder, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Sergio Leone and Park Chan-wook.
Cineuropa: Where did the story of Beyond the Hill [+see also:
interview: Emin Alper
film profile] come from?
Emin Alper: The initial idea goes back 15 years, although the original screenplay was completely different: it was just a family reunion. I spent my childhood in a town close to the location where we filmed, and I remember those family reunions, especially with men spending time together in the mountains. I wasn't too keen on the first screenplay so I put it aside. 15 years later, I picked it up again and introduced new elements, the nomads in particular, and the grandfather. I then realized the potential of the story and developed it as an allegory. I went from a family drama to something much more mysterious.
What can you tell us about the play on the perception of reality?
I wanted a reality that changes on several levels. Do the nomads really exist? Are they a real threat? Zafer’s character also takes that same direction: are his hallucinations real or not? He is a traumatized character. I didn't want to explain it in the film, but for the Turkish audience, the link to the Kurdish war is self-evident. The film deals with this subject on an allegorical level, but it is universal because people often tend to blame their enemies instead of confronting themselves.
Weren't you afraid of losing the spectator by multiplying the number of clues and false leads?
No, because from the start, I knew the film would not have a very large audience. It is an art-house film and I didn't want to destroy its atmosphere by explaining everything. I wanted spectators to think and fill in the blanks themselves. I like this kind of film and I try to make movies that I like.
What about the mixture of genres?
That was not a deliberate choice in the screenplay, but many critics appreciated it and pointed it out. It appears to be a family drama, a black comedy, a western and a thriller. Obviously, I had the western style in mind and I tried to use its iconography, without emphasizing it too much. The nature that I firstly use mainly as a source of beauty creates a claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere. If I had to define the genre of the film, I would say that it is minimalist suspense.
How did you finance the film?
We produced it solely with backing from the Ministry of Culture. The shoulder-held camera sequences were not a choice: we couldn't afford a steadicam for the entire duration of the shooting. Most of the shots and camera movements were planned in advance. Being precise was crucial because we only had three weeks to film, and I knew we wouldn't get a second chance. I also rehearsed with the actors in Istanbul before the shooting. After the shooting, we had no money left for the post-production so we went to the “work in progress” section of the Thessalonika Festival, where we met our Greek co-producer.
What is the situation today for young art-house cinema in Turkey?
A new generation has emerged since a public support fund was set up in 2004. As for distribution in Turkey, it is sometimes difficult to find theatres, but unless you try to release the film during the busiest periods, it is possible. On the other hand, no private Turkish television channel buys this kind of movie: the monopoly is held by Turkish TV series, which even win out over American films. The only hope is the public TRT television network, which sadly shows less and less art-house films these days. That’s why we have to find European coproductions.
What will your next project be?
I'm in the process of writing the second version of a screenplay for a political thriller, which will take place in a big city, again with mystery and paranoia. I hope to start filming at the beginning of 2014.