The Turkish director Semih Kaplanoğlu’s Golden Bear winning film “Honey” (2010) is the last film of his “Yusuf Trilogy”. The first two parts of the trilogy are “Egg” (2007), which centered around Yusuf’s adulthood and “Milk” (2008), which explored Yusuf’s youth. As Kaplanoğlu says on the official website of the film, after “peeling down the character slowly” in the first two parts he now eventually reaches the core in “Honey”.
In “Honey, a clear masterpiece), Kaplanoğlu focuses Yusuf’s childhood, the trilogy’s protagonist, and his relationship with his beekeeper father, all depicted through Kaplanoğlu’s charming and poetic cinematic language, which is almost like poetry. The beauty of the film lies in what it does not have. It does not have many dialogues because what the camera records does not require words to appeal to our senses; the images convey the message and envelop us easily. There is no background music… Who would need music when nature is capable of creating its own music through birds, rain and trees? Who would need music when the camera, from a distance, invites the audience to experience the emotional bond between Yusuf and his father? “Honey” is clearly a perfect example of pure cinema.
The Kaplanoğlu interview in Skylife Magazine (as cited on the film’s official web page) explains the director’s relationship with the cinema very well: “it was poetry that opened the door for me. A finished poem is perfect; even one extra comma would be superfluous. There is a harmony forged of words in poetry, and those words are actually anti-language because language means talking, in other words, the thing that separates us from ourselves and others. It is important to overcome the limits imposed by language. Painting liberates us from the confines of language. One three-line poem is worth pages of prose”.
As we have said above, the beauty of the film is hidden in what it does not have. This is true for the lack of action as well, in “Honey”. The slow-paced nature of the film is a challenge against popular films of “fast-food nature” and a challenge for the cinema audience because they are expected to be engaged in an active film watching experience.
Dreamlike atmosphere in the film
Semih Kaplanoğlu creates a dream-like atmosphere in “Honey”. There are verbal references to dreams in the film – when there is no verbal reference, the sense of dreams or dreaming is always kept intact through images, colors and settings.
At the beginning of “Honey”, Yusuf wants to tell his father about his dream but is warned by his father not to tell his dreams aloud so he whispers the dream to his father’s ear. “Dreams disappear when we talk about them… when we share them,” says Kaplanoğlu in an interview for the Turkish film magazine “Sinema.”
According to Kaplanoğlu, the dream-like atmosphere in the film has something to do with the age of the film’s protagonist who is a child. “Since the film’s focus is on Yusuf’s childhood, I feel that this dream-like atmosphere is essential for the story. Childhood is a phase when a child tries to distinguish dreams from reality”, says Kaplanoğlu in his interview for the Turkish newsportal NTVMSNBC.
Oneness with nature
In Kaplanoğlu’s film, the characters are very close to nature. For example, Yusuf’s house is embedded in nature; it is in harmony with nature and does not destroy nature. Nature can be hostile but this does not stop the way people communicate with it.
Closeness to and oneness with nature is also an important means of understanding both the child protagonist and how the trilogy concludes. As Kaplanoğlu says in an interview for the Turkish film magazine “Sinema”, this is the place where life starts, and where Yusuf will learn about life. This is the place where we see Yusuf lying peacefully near a huge tree in fetal position. This is the place where Yusuf reaches the core and where Kaplanoğlu’s trilogy ends.