'Spirit of Dust' ('Toz Ruhu'): Antalya Review

Dust Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Golden Orange Film Festival, Antalya

Dust Still - H 2014

Slow-boiling character-study portends encouragingly for its director

Tansu Bicer stars as an aspiring singer of Arabesque music in Turkish director Nesimi Yetik's debut feature

A solitary man´s showbiz dreams gently propel Spirit of Dust (Toz Ruhu), which sees Turkish director Nesimi Yetik make a tentatively promising transition from shorts to features. Winner of the Best Film prize at September´s Golden Boll Festival in Adana, this intimate character-study also nabbed Best Actor honors for star Tansu Bicer´s performance as easy-going 37-year-old Metin. Echoes of Pablo Larrain´s much-traveled Tony Manero (2008) won't harm the picture´s international prospects, although the mellow vibe here is infinitely more benign than the disco-inflected Chilean serial-killer tale.

Indeed, our softly-spoken hero falls squarely into the "wouldn´t harm a fly" category, and there´s little sense of any simmering discontent with his lot. "I love my customers and my customers love me," he enthuses, referring to the various employers whose homes he cleans. Paid in cash, Metin is something of a doormat, something of a "soft touch", but isn´t the sort of guy to even consider himself exploited, so long as he has enough money to fund his passion for brightly-colored, gaudily-patterned shirts.

Usually worn with a smart but outmoded suit, these blouses are evidently crucial to Metin´s self-image as a writer-performer of folk-pop songs in Turkey´s "Arabesque" genre. Metin´s ditties (such as "My Untimely Love") conform to the romantic conventions of Arabesque, but don´t seem to spring from any particular emotional turmoil on his part. Indeed, he comes across instead as an asexual loner — no surprise to learn that his zodiac sign is Virgo — probably born about 30 or 40 years too late.

Happy in his own company, he´s either unwilling or unable to make significant overtures towards the opposite sex. Hints of developments in the latter direction arrive in the shapely form of manicurist Neslihan (Selin Yeninci), whom Metin provides with bed and board when she finds herself in a tight spot. But, rather like his relationship with Army-conscript nephew Umit (Aytac Arman), the business with Neslihan doesn´t catalyze that much in terms of plot, rather sketching further Metin´s happy-go-lucky generosity.

Cinematographers Sedat Sahin and Cevahir Sahin consistently emphasize the cozy obscurity of Metin´s situation, with many scenes starting in total or near-darkness, and portions of the frame slowly racking in and out of focus. The limelight of celebrity seems a long way off — "go down the steps of fame slowly", he´s wryly advised by a client employed in the industry — until a climax involving a Turkey´s Got Talent-style TV show entitled The Stage Is Yours. Metin´s visit to the studio concludes proceedings on an ambiguously metaphysical note, via a column of illumination — the "spirit of dust" of the otherwise-unexplained title? — accompanied by 2001-esque angelic/extraterrestrial choral effects.

Yetik, whose 4-minute short My Mother Learns Cinema was warmly received around the festival circuit in 2007, takes a slightly risky approach here by so intently foregrounding the most passive and unassuming of the characters he and producer/co-writer Betul Esener have created. But the mood of humanist sympathy, concern and curiosity, allied to the unobtrusive verisimilitude of Osman Ozcan´s carefully-observed production-design, ensure that Spirit of Dust manages to sustain interest despite intermittent longueurs.

Production company: Ozminimalist Film
Cast: Tansu Bicer, Aytac Usun, Selin Yeninci, Aytac Arman, Settar Tanriogen, Nihal Koldas
Director: Nesimi Yetik
Screenwriters: Nesimi Yetik, Betul Esener
Producer: Betul Esener
Cinematographers: Sedat Sahin, Cevahir Sahin
Production designer: Osman Ozcan
Editor: Ali Umut Ergin
Composer: Betul Esener , Ezgi Baltas
Sales: Ozminimalist Film, Istanbul

No Rating, 94 minutes