Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Anger and Social Change

Angry Film Characters in Winter Sleep and Corbo Profoundly Affect Those Closest to Them

Haluk Bilginer in the Turkish film 'Winter Sleep' and Tony Nardi in the Canadian film 'Corbo'
In two completely different films produced in different cultures about different political eras, a deep-seated anger spills over to affect and take root in central characters who dominate the story. These two films share the same root element of misplaced anger causing social change that goes wrong. The anger, pain and disappointment in the protagonists slowly move central characters into zones of irrationality, while their own repressed anger causes them to carry on unaware of the effect that they have on people around them. The two films were screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in January 2015.

In Winter Sleep, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and set in a small village in Cappadocia, a failed actor controls others through his education and amassed wealth as a landowner, oblivious to the debilitating poverty around him. He has a particularly suffocating effect on his young wife. In Corbo, directed by Mathieu Denis and set in Montreal, a repressive father who was formerly discriminated against in Canada as an Italian immigrant after Mussolini declared war, cannot understand why his 16-year old son is not appreciative of the wealth and stability he provides the family as a lawyer. (The son, the main character in Corbo, becomes involved in the underground pro-French independence movement and later a radical terrorist in the FLQ).

How Anger Can Cause Things To End Badly          

The people who affect those who move the story along in both films are angry. The films are about a lot of things other than anger, yet without the rigidity and lack of communication engendered by anger these stories would have been very different. The complacence of these characters plays a part in the suffering of others around them, and when enlarged to a view of a whole society, is the very same complacence that provokes the desire for social change. But enacting social change doesn't work very well when inherited, repressed anger from unrelated sources is fueling it.

In Winter Sleep, it is difficult not to surmise that the arrogance of the angry character played by Haluk Bilginer is a direct result of his earlier failure as an actor. One wonders when his openness to ideas and people stopped. He acknowledges that his wife no longer loves him but lacks the flexibility to understand why.

Similarly, the repressed father in Corbo, played by Tony Nardi, actually believes that his sons will absorb his learned Anglophone liberal middle class values without absorbing his anxiety about having suffered at its hand as an Italian immigrant during WWII.

The theme of painful suffering developing into powerful control of others runs as a subtext throughout both Corbo and Winter Sleep, two totally different films produced by different generations and countries. Whether reacting to the dominant English culture in Canada or the crushing poverty of rural Turkey, it is the people affected by repressed anti-heroes who express the truth - a young wife crushed by a self-hating husband, or a young son angry without knowing why. We find out there are no easy answers in their personal stories.

Both films are well worth watching. Corbo is about the search for French identity in Canada. Winter Sleep is about the class struggle in the steppes of the Central Anatolia region of Turkey.

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