- Golden Globe Awards
Snow and the Bear (Turkey/Germany/Serbia)
Snow and bears are not immediately associated with Turkey. Maybe that’s the reason why writer-director-producer Selcen Ergun takes her time in introducing us to this seeming abnormality: in one long take we follow a car slithering through an expansive and uninviting winter scape, a tiny red dot on a white canvas.
Then, a snowdrift blocks the car. The driver, a young woman named Asli (Merve Dizdar), steps out. A moment of panic. From the woods, a man (Saygin Soysal) emerges. He is difficult to read, for her and for us: is he a good guy ready to help or does he present imminent danger? He carries two bags, and, as we will learn, he collects bones from the village butcher shop and leaves them in the forest to feed the bears. Because, as he explains, “only a hungry bear comes to town.”
The young woman is a nurse. The townspeople, practically cut off from the world outside their village, welcome her. Many need medical treatment. It will be weeks before a doctor will be able to make it to them. The nurse helps where she can.
But it takes only a few days until she senses tensions within this small group of simple folks. And there is the almost tangible presence of a bear, at least in the mind and behavior of the people. Every night men gather on the edge of the forest, moving around a fire, and banging their sticks against trees, creating an almost ritualistic percussion. In their heightened imagination, it seems, they are trying to put a spell on a ferocious mystical beast.
One man in the town, Hasan (Erkan Bektas), had killed a bear once. That was against the law and, being ostracized for it, he drowns his anger in alcohol. One night he follows the nurse on her way home, harasses her, and when he grabs her arm she pushes him away. On unsteady feet, he stumbles over the shoulder of the road.
The next day the town is alarmed since the drunk didn’t show up at home. The local police, more used to fighting off bats, form a search party. With their guns cocked, they nervously enter the forest. One man says what others might believe, too: “The brother of the bear Hasan killed must have gotten him.”
Snow and the Bear (Budget: $800,000) is Selcen Ergun’s first feature. She has repeatedly worked as an assistant director and had international success (such as Cannes and Berlin) with a series of short films.
In her statement about the film she explains: “I wanted to explore feelings of fear, confinement, struggle and hope – which many people consistently face in various places on earth to different extents – in a small isolated town where they become more tangible. Places matter. In this microcosm, intertwined relationships and power struggles come into light more easily than usual.”