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  • Contains spoilers.

    Reha Erdem's Kosmos is a rare film that exhilarates the spirit. Unclassifiable, it's best placed in one of those niches set aside for oddball jewels. Not a perfectly cut diamond – it digresses here and there and could be slightly trimmed – but a highly polished one nevertheless. Its hero Battal, who calls himself Kosmos, is brilliantly brought to life by Sermet Yesil. Yesil crafts him into one of the strangest and most endearing characters to emerge out of recent cinematic history. Quirky and intense, with a sub-layer of sadness that seems to reflect the suffering of the world.

    The film begins with his dramatic entry into the Turkish city of Kars, in eastern Anatolia, near the Armenian border. Erdem takes his time with the opening scenes: gripping and feverish, against a palette of sounds and snowscapes, they set the film's tone and prefigure its ending. Battal is a distant figure engulfed by a wintry landscape, running fearfully from unseen pursuers as he downs a snow-covered hill towards the river that runs through the city. He hears a young woman calling for help as she runs along the bank after the body of her brother, floating downstream in rushing water. After hiding a wad of bills (stolen?) under a rock, Battal pulls the child out of the water. In a wild frenzy of hugs, cries and rolling about, her brother is resuscitated. The beautiful young woman (Türkü Turan), who claims the boy was dead, finds instant affinity with Battal, and decides to call herself Neptune.

    Battal is then received as a hero by the locals and the neighborhood café owner offers him room and board for the menial job of clearing tables. The film recounts the events that occur as he shirks the job, steals money (which he mostly gives away) and roams the city, trying to alleviate the suffering of his fellows.

    It is soon clear that this stranger is a man of uncanny powers and otherworldly connections. Drawing his febrile energy from no more than sugar lumps and tea, he shimmies up trees like a feline and emits birdsong as he leaps, swings or flies (we never really see) from branch to branch. In one shrilling, virtuoso scene with Neptune, we get a flashing glimpse of his (their?) feet turned into those of a bird and of Battal walking upside down across a ceiling.

    His presence deregulates clocks, he claims to have been to Alpha Centauri and he has the power to heal, though not infallibly. A child he cures of muteness falls ill and dies, and the brittle school teacher he beds and cures of migraines jumps to her death. The film only drops hints as to why some healings fail and Battal seems as perplexed as we are.

    Battal's Kosmos never preaches, but gladly spouts his obtuse philosophy, spiked with homespun homilies, when questioned. He lauds the virtues of eschewing work and the delights of uniting soul and body in erotic love. When this boils down to spending a night of love with Neptune, her father stubs a cigarette out on his hand, but no matter, the burns vanish overnight.

    Other things are happening. There are huge and disturbing close-ups of cattle destined for slaughter. Mundane activities such as bringing in the geese are charged with ominous foreboding. But foreboding of what? A satellite that falls from space seems connected to Battal, but how? The film continually suggests that events are taking place at other levels, with deeper significances than meet the eye, but what are they? All of this is helped along by the film's exceptionally effective sound design and soundtrack, used as powerful mood enhancers, generating tension as the pace accelerates, giving rise to expectations of impending disaster, but does it ever come?

    Mysteries and loose ends abound at the end, most of all the identity of the elusive Battal. But the film's tight structure, centering on Battal and the Kars neighborhood, easily keeps the film from overloading As in Lynch, Kosmos is best experienced through emotional connections and recognitions than through reasoning. But while Lynch peels off layers of psyche to reveal our beasts within, Erdem quite happily relegates everything to the macrocosm. At the film's end, he whirls us upwards on an exhilarating ride deep into the real cosmos, where sheer awe tends to make any need for explanation seem paltry. In this film's magical way, everything comes harmoniously together in this joy ride to the stars, music crescendoing to the point of explosion.

    Altruistic thief, loopy star man, hybrid human – let's just say that Battal is blessed with unearthly powers that invite us to revel in the strangeness of the world. The film also invites reflection on marginality, tolerance and the meaning of freedom. For Battal is the bothersome man in the timeless tale of the other, the intruding visitor who rattles the social and moral order, pointing at their contradictions and hypocrisy. The status quo will never accommodate him, and he hightails it out of Kars just as he came in – this time running up the snowy hill, a tiny dot lost in the wintry landscape, with the police hot on his trail for thieving and basic "undesirability".

    A neat subtext emerges when a right-wing activist makes the rounds, drumming up support to oppose proposed measures to open the border with Armenia, in an effort to stimulate trade. Suspicious, he questions Battal about the nature of his visit. Battal replies only that he is an "unexpected guest". Disarmed, the hunky xenophobe can only utter back "welcome".

    That's what we should say too after seeing this exuberant film, teetering on the brink of a minor masterpiece.
  • I've never seen like this film before. Really.

    I think, Kosmos is a first scream about Turkish modern rebellion. You think like that it is politically, but not. Kosmos bound up with poetry revolt, post-modern disobedience, divinity individualism, valueless of values. In a nutshell, Kosmos is a literary uprising.

    Battal, Kosmos, is an outlander and take refuge in a small town where is in Kars, a forgotten city in Turkey. Kars' people want to be remembered and due to this reason they wish the borders must open. Because the small town is too far from both country and city. They feel like derelict and therefore they choke in daily routines, especially a female teacher, feeling be assigned by force to her job, a butcher, being thought of slaying animals, and his daughter. Everybody think that Kosmos is an answer their problems and he have a extraordinary power, being thought of curing their illness.

    In reality, all of them wants a clue about their existence but Kosmos doesn't. He does not interested in their pursuits and does not realize he is an answer. He seeks for love and his own god like Spinoza.

    I appreciate Reha Erdem as he made a movie discussing very philosophical and mentally confusing arguments. If you have a chance to watch this movie, you must enjoy listening Sigur Rosian musics ( A Silver Mount Zion and Rachel's) and disturbing movie effects.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This review was written following a screening at Cambridge Film Festival (UK) - 15 to 25 September 2011

    * Contains spoilers *

    Kosmos is what he calls himself, when he is asked his name. He has previously saved the young woman's brother, and he is delighted to hear her baying at him like a wolf, inviting him to follow her, to chase her. When he says that he is Kosmos, she says that she is Neptün, and I find myself thinking more of the seas, than of the planet. (Meeting the girl's father, he gives a different name, but he is credited as Kosmos (Sermet Yesil), and she as Neptün (Türkü Turan.)

    What we see is his visit to this indeterminate Muslim town in the snow, from when he arrives to when he leaves. All that we really know, as a foreign audience, is that he strays into areas where he should not be, that there are sounds of explosions, and that there is a border closed, which some would like opened, but which others say is just for their profit.

    If we are trying to judge him, to see whether the words that he speaks when asked questions and which have a ring of teaching such as from the Koran or the book of Ecclesiastes, then we will find that he does things to disapprove of. (But don't we all. He does not claim to be a great holy man, but answers people's questions, and seems to seek to help.) Ultimately, it is the disapproval, and the reliance that others have put upon him to cure as if it is without cost to himself (when we see at the start how he gives of himself to give life back to the boy whom he has rescued from the river), which cut short his time there. Some see him for who he is, but even the teacher, who sleeps with him, seeks to put her guilt on him – what he is looking for, he says, is love.

    With Neptün, whether or not they sleep together, there is an unbridled energy and exuberance, a dance as of elemental forces such as their names suggest. Even his acts of healing, and what happens with natural phenomena (reminiscent of what Tarkovksy does in Mirror), suggest that he has a connection that others have forgotten about or overlooked, and which the girl sees in him more fully. The woman who places reliance in the medication Tralin ® , an anti-depressant, seems at the opposite extreme, but he is nonetheless distressed for her.

    The crash-landing of some sort of lunar module, which the authorities want hushed up, but which he has already seen, seem to herald a time when judgement turns against him, and he has to leave, although not without showing his care for those who are hurting. He leaves as he arrived, and, except when he is with Neptün, there is always an ambiguous quality about his anguish and about his joy, as if their being two sides of the same coin is very close to him.

    This is a remarkable piece of cinema, and would invite me to see it again. What I would have to be clear about is not to do so to find out more about who Kosmos is, since we know only the time when he is with the people in this town and often have to guess at his motives or motivations, but to see how he is valued, to see what people see in him.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Just because you are shooting good visuals doesn't mean you have a fancy movie. Since Autumn by Ozcan Alper we know that good scenery can be presented well within a context, a plot and other essentials. So the good scenery here is in no way an excuse for such a dragging agony. Some of the comments here are really making me ask myself did I watch the same movie or what? What rebellion, what post-modern disobedience?

    Sermet Yesil was so overplaying, at times I was too embarrassed to be even watching him. You don't even need to check his name in Google to know he was picked up from a theater stage. His exaggerated cries, faces, unnaturally long and calm nonsense speeches. Who buys that? Who writes that?

    And in the end revealing the great mystery, the source of his superpowers was that thing in the sky which eventually burned up and crashed into the ground. What is that an oriental Truman Show? Allah was mad at him for abusing his powers so he smoked him up. For crying out loud move along people. If there is anything interesting about Kars's religiously mystical ways then rest assured Orhan Pamuk milked it dry long ago in his book Kar.
  • Reha Erdem's Kosmos is a barren land, a desolate white town inhabited by ghosts, ghosts that are as real as you and I. In this cosmos, chance encounters have the power to throw things in and out of their orbit, and miracles are just as imminent as death.

    Through the masterful camera-work we follow the main character Kosmos (remarkable performance by Sermet Yesil) as he wanders through the snow-laden wilderness in eastern Turkey. His presence has a prominent role in the villagers lives, lives that are so wrapped up by borders and boundaries, real and imaginary, that never have come to grasp their true selves.

    The strength of the film largely benefits from the expressive performances from all of the cast. Thank you Reha Erdem and everyone involved with this spellbinding film for restoring my faith in Turkish cinema.
  • Watched this with a friend of mine from Kars (the lands where the movie takes place). I was very fond of the atmosphere this movie created. The sound work was great, the constant military maneuvers in the background and usage of loud sounds without reserve was nice. The visuals and camera work were also professional. The isolation created by large fields of snow is a perfect setup for a movie.

    But all of these positive aspects are lost when the plot starts to unravel -- to say more clearly it doesn't unravel because there is no plot for the audience to follow. The audience are expected to be satisfied with bits and pieces of characters, events and visuals (like running goose, cows being slaughtered) that are thrown at them and after a solid 2 hours you are left wondering who did what why and what was it all about.

    Now I am aware that Reha Erdem is a talented director and I like a surreal movie as well as the next guy, but unless you are sure you are ready to be compared with really masterful movie/directors like Yavuz Turgul (Gölge Oyunu) or lets also give an example of Lynch, one should stick with solid plots.

    As a last note, seriously Mr.Erdem, what was with all the religious mambo-jumbo voiced by Kosmos character. All were alienating moments when he spoke - and no, it wasn't even a good alienation.
  • While almost all Turkish so-called directors/producers want to create something which can be understood easily, with the most popular way and scenarios, and with no any effort to bring something new to Turkish cinema.. this guy -on the contrary- prefers to walk towards very strong tides, he knows that this kind of films would not make him any more richer or more famous, as this film is not for %95 of Turkish people (hope i am not too much optimistic)...unfortunately our people tends to watch slow and easy-to-understand things, or so-called comedy films full of slang and cheap jokes, or films/soap operas full of out-of-line relations, there is no any preparation in acting nor any deep meaning in story, just cheap characters with poor conversations, nothing to edit, nothing to worry about...So, as a Turkish citizen, i must thank Reha Erdem for this incredible film, not only because i like this movie, but also because really i am proud of him as a Turkish director. I don't want to talk about the film, there are plenty of explanations, but, whatever is told, this film is a must-watch for Turkish People first because Reha Erdem made this film with many difficulties and has brought something new no doubt, there is no any other such film you can compare with, whats more, its really good.
  • taksim24 April 2010
    Granted this movie is one of the best Turkish films in its visual aspects. it is so wonderful to see this in a movie that has a very pale color scheme. you can pause most of the scenes and exhibit them as photographs. and i would be glad to hang one of them on my wall.

    and it had a symphony concert affect to my ears. I cannot articulate what else to say about that. defining sound is as hard as defining the taste of an apple.

    however, a director should always bear in mind that having a wonderful visuality and delightful sound necessarily suggest a wonderful film. I understand that this movie tries to separate itself from the rest with claiming that it has some issues to share, it wants to show you people something and do not want to make these so obvious because it is afraid of being a mainstream trash with its storytelling.

    but this kind of an approach also bears the risk of being an outcast which limits the number of theaters that wants to screen it because the movie has the risk of not being understood since it avoids the traditional storytelling. therefore director's complaints about not being able to find a big number of theaters is meaningless when a director sets out for this. there is no way that this kind of festival movies will get closer to 100 000 viewers.

    To conclude, wonderful photography, frantic sound but a weak plot and storytelling which leaves everything all over the place and above all such a weak script (which makes you think that it was intentional but I did not feel that) ends up to this. max 7 thousand viewers and a discouraging step for the following filmography. (for the director, for the producers, for the theater and most importantly for the viewer.)
  • All creation exists as an allegory of the soul: the microcosm and macrocosm form a (mystical) metonymy in which biblical events are interpreted and reformulated as phases in the development of the soul, and its relation to the phenomenal world. Kosmos (2010) by Reha Erdem is such an allegory, a parable of cosmic biblical proportion.

    The film opens with inhuman howling winds whirling round and round over a white wintry snows-cape, and on its rounds the wind returns (Eccles 1.6), snowing the whole world over, shifting to night, with its hoary silver-gray sky menacing a vacant snows-cape, shifting to day again, a pure argent white snows-cape undisturbed and unperturbed by a background speck of movement, a lone feral-like man running breathlessly, at full speed towards white nothingness, wailing at whatever he's left behind - a vast boundless vacant snows-cape of white nothingness. But then the run ends at the snowed-over cliff, and he takes in the view, right out of an impressionistic painting: the outline of a snow-swept medieval town sculptured by the blizzard and hewed right out of the rocks of the valley, domes and spires of trees and serpentine roads completing the vista. The wind echoes, the sound of emptiness reverberates across all the corners of the earth, synclastically returning to this medieval town, hallowed out of the stones of the earth.

    The man, among rocks, a whirling wine dark river tessellating impartially alongside him as he takes a knotted mess of money out his shoe. Catacoustical, tintinnabulation sounds of nature and mechanical melt into each other: fermenting water and crunching snow and echoing rocks spectral intersecting with distant sounds of machinery and battle. A young girl, howling a wail, and the man, abandoning his wealth to the rocks, runs responds to the call: he runs into the ferocious slate ice waves to save a child drifting unconscious in the water. Breathing the child back into life, he then collapses, his winded breathing the sound of a wounded animal.

    Cross-cut of the moon: representing the cyclical movement of day and night, the moon (and sun) is prime evidence in nature of the repetitive cyclical character of reality (Ecclesiastes), a notion that is a radical challenge to the conception of time and sequence inscribed in Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible, where things are imagined to progress meaningfully towards fulfillment. Trademark of Reha Erdem: the moon, a stationary indifferent dazzlingly bright spherical ornament, obnubilated and obtenebrated by pillars of clouds and the impenetrable murky blackness of night. Then we hear a cow's heated, guttural mooing, moans from the bowels of the earth, and brightly-lit circular clocks whose hands are stuck, stuttering, no forward motion, and looks almost as if the hands are trying to move counterclockwise.

    Battal, a prophet, a wild, feral man with a wondrously mellifluous voice flowing with honey, trilling ululations like a wolverine, his veriloquence enrapturing the townspeople just as Ecclesiastes has enraptured listeners and readers for over fifteen-hundred years. Most of his dialogue straight out of Ecclesiastes, a few bits come from the Book of Job and Song Of Songs. I must segue into Ecclesiastes for a moment, before returning to the film.

    Howling wolves and cawing birds and whirling water and tintinnabulations of bullet spray ricochet against a ululating Battal chasing the girl, the masculine and feminine are primitive and hymnal and delightful and sensual and fierce and stimulating as the sun and the moon and the river.

    Pieces of music by A Silver Mt. Zion rake through certain scenes like sunlight (or G-d's light...), the music a golden threnody of weltschmerz, the musicality evincing the sadness over the evils of the world that encapsulates the sum total of the mood of the film and the director's mindset as he was composing this cinematic masterwork.

    A wanderer, hero, a prophet, a wild animal, a mute, a bully, what next? Astral sounds jettison and we see thin cow legs deep in the snow, heated gutturals reminding us of slaughter, and like lighting, a visual of short wave sci-fi sound: circuitously tinseling the tenebrous blackness of night, Saturn's Rings, meteor trails, a time-exposure of millions of car lights streaking by fast in the black of night, spiraling galaxies, and then a plain, a deserted lunar plain ontologically blanked by the consuming expanse of an impenetrable black sky, catch your breath as a city of the plain, formed of fallen stars, shimmers and twinkles across the horizon, a radiating band of light trumping the ineluctably of dark.....

    And this is just the beginning.

    Battal preaches to any and all, chases after three women, performs miracles, self-heals his cigarette burn, spirits out the infernal cough of an ailing old tailor, pleasures the teacher out of her migraines, guilts the boy who stole money from him into speaking again after being mute for a year), steals money to pay for sustenance but also gives the stolen money to others in need, howls like an animal in pursuit of Neptune, scales trees and roars ferociously and religiously peregrinates through the squalid, run down streets of the town where rabid dogs prowl and where buildings are vacant empty shells. Battal, wanderer, foreigner, hero, radical prophet, thief, wild animal, lover, healer, hedonistic, generous.

    Kosmos (2010) laments the lack of faith that afflicts our modern world and the contemporary human, the lack of faith in existence, nature, humankind, the interconnectedness of the world.

    Battal's dialogue is directly lifted from, in film order, Ecclesiastes 9:2-9:5, Ecclesiastes 3:16-3:20, Ecclesiastes 2:20-2:26, Song Of Songs (Solomon) 4:13-4:15, Song Of Songs (Solomon) 6:10, Ecclesiastes 11:2- 11:3, Ecclesiastes 7:29, Ecclesiastes 4:9-4:10, Ecclesiastes 4:11, Ecclesiastes 5:2, Job 15:14, Job 22:14
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Regarding movies like Reha Erdem's "Kosmos", I don't see much sense in objections such as "movies must have story". Although preferring story-centered pieces, I would vote for admitting that : 1) movies needn't necessarily have a story, 2) (almost) every movie has a story. Such is the case with "Kosmos" as well as with works of Tarr or Tarkovsky which our movie may be reminiscent of. (Then again, Tarr surely has his inspirations, and many of today's great directors might be accused, rightly or not, of borrowing from Tarkovsky. Watching Erdem's movie, I personally was reminded also of the novel "The Red Rooster Flies Heavenwards" by Serbian writer Miodrag Bulatović - but that hardly matters.) One thing seems to be sure : "Kosmos" is overlong and overheated. As an allegory visualizing the Calvary of emotionally unrestrained, animal-like holy fool/miracle worker/scapegoat (= Nature?) chased from one place to another by the lonely crowd of conformist, egoistic and xenophobic townspeople (= Society ?) it is a bit too straightforward/one-dimensional. But being viewed as a rich, expressive tapestry of images, sounds and tones, it can provide a strong, challenging and rare cinematic experience. One in tune with the movie's relevant warning message, I would say.
  • I think the director was so obsessed with the underlying theme, he forgot about the story needs to be on the screen. I gave it 5 out of 10, because I don't know what happens in the second half. But from what I've seen in the first half, I know not much is on the way.

    I think this is one of those movies in which the theme is so complex (philosophical) that even the actors can't get it. A good movie needs to have a good story that can be followed by an average audience ,and needs to have mind challenging subtext for more complex viewers. In case sub text precludes the story, I'd say it might be a better idea to write a philosophical book ,since such a load of ideas can not be gotten across audience via a movie through two hours. Second, movies must have story , when the subtext comes in the first place in terms of importance, this also obliterates the reason for making a movie.
  • It is a sad sight when a talented filmmaker allows themselves the luxury of their own vanity.

    This film is unfortunately within that category. A mishmash of previous efforts and constant spoon feeding of style without substance, the viewer can hardly follow the plot line. Such an experienced filmmaker should have known that visuals and atmosphere is nothing without a solid plot line.

    Erdem's previous efforts were better, but Kosmos unfortunately is catered to the inexperienced standards of Turkish film-goers as an art film. For those of us in Europe and America however, it is mediocre at best.