Clair Obscur Review: Deftly crafted, Touching and Insightful!

Clair Obscur (2016/Turkish/Netflix) (Drama)

A touching and insightful human drama about two women, their stories and the contrast and similarities in them.

Director/ Writer – Yesim Ustaoglu

Cast – Funda Eryigit, Ecem Uzun, Mehmet Kurtulus, Okan Yalabik

Plot

Chenaz is a psychiatrist having a seemingly great life with a liberal modern lifestyle, a plush house and a handsome husband. But there are chinks in her personal life.

Elmas is a quiet and meek young girl married to a much older man. She spends scarily oppressive days and painful nights.

When Elmas is found locked out in her balcony, cold and mentally comatosed, a suspect for murders, her case is assigned to Chenaz. 

The story takes us through the lives of the two women, on opposite ends of spectrum socially and otherwise, but both seeking love and solace.

Analysis 

The term “Clair Obscur” means “ half light” or “artistic distribution of light and dark masses in a picture”.

Yesim Ustaoglu received massive international acclaim for this film and you could see why. 

It’s a deftly crafted human drama that absorbs you , impresses you with its artistic story-telling and leaves you in thoughts about the contrasts it portrays.

The film has not only been well written but also artistically put together which reflects in its title, theme, performances, art direction, sets, frames and lighting.

The film follows it’s metaphoric name to show us two contrasting lives in one story. To see similarity in this contrast could be matter of perspective or debate.

Through stunning camerawork, cinematographer Michael Hammon conveys the theme and much more. Waves, storms, play of light and dark, there’s so much to admire.

Of the two stories, its Elmas’s story that’s heart wrenching. The circumstances of her drab and oppressed life, her loneliness and pain is so palpable that you feel breathless at times. The intricate writing and screenplay sketch a deep and impactful impression of drudged routines and the slave like life. So much said through so little.

Ecem Uzun is brilliant at playing the delicate Elmas. She brings alive her stifled fear, longing and trauma.

Funda Eryigit has a subtle but nuanced role as Chenaz. She’s very impressive in some of the complex scenes.

Even though Chenaz’s agony seems very small as compared to Elmas, but I think the story does convey that whether oppressed or liberated, whether educated or uneducated, whether dependent or independent, there could be battles on both sides when it comes to fighting patriarchy or misogyny.

The film is a well crafted and touching human drama. Its brilliant storytelling and performances make it worth a watch for those who relish this sombre genre.

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