A desolate, snowy plain on the very northern border of Turkey. Cold, harsh, unknown. From this expanse runs, stumbles, a man. He’s crying, howling, escaping something or someone. He reaches a river, ice-cold and fast-running. A scream, and a boy is being washed away. The man stashes away a handful of money and jumps in to save the boy, seeming even to bring him back from death itself.
This is our introduction to the enigmatic man that will go on to call himself Kosmos.
He stays in the local town, where his hero status makes him welcome. His regular animal-like outbursts and statements on religion or faith also cement his reputation as some kind of healing prophet. The town itself is going through a particularly trying time, with military manoeuvres filling the air with sounds of gunfire and rumbling explosions. There is a political debate about whether to open the borders to trade or not: a fight between embracing or fearing the outside world.
The film is shot in a naturalistic way, but with an eye for beauty. From the very opening scene, in the town, on the river, we have time to absorb the atmosphere of the place. Set along the Turkish/Bulgarian border, KOSMOS gives us a refreshing look at a different side of Turkey. This is a real living town, with real problems, which helps to ground some of the more whimsical aspects of the film. It is balanced very well.
There are a lot of heavy themes in the film, but we are given space to think and strong characters to follow, so KOSMOS never feels strained or preachy. Indeed, there are few answers here, but a collection of ideas and themes. Religion, faith, trust, science, love and emotion. Questions are asked about the difference between the human and the animal – a grey area in which Kosmos himself seems to exist. (There are a couple of distressing scenes set in an abattoir, but they are brief.) Although writer/director Reha Erdem must have had an ideology going into the film, he respects the audience enough to leave us to think about the themes ourselves and to make our own decisions.
The film is beautifully shot, with plenty of space to think about the big questions being raised. Everyone will take something completely different from the film. You will need to sit in a bar afterwards and discuss for a while.
Kosmos is playing across selected Picturehouse cinemas on 31 July. Find out where.
By Thomas Roberts – The Gate, Notting Hill