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A high school graduate, Yusuf could not pass the university entrance exam. Writing poetry is his greatest passion and some of his poems are being printed in various obscure literary journals. But neither these poems, nor the rapidly falling price of the milk they sell, are being of any benefit to Yusuf and Zehra's lives. When Yusuf finds out about Zehra's secret affair with the town's stationmaster he gets disconcerted. Will he find the way to cope with his anxiety for the unknown future, the rapid change that he is going through and the pain of taking a step into adulthood and leaving his youth behind?Written by
Venice Film Festival
The Second Part of the Yusuf Trilogy Focusing on Adolescence in a Changing World
Stylistically speaking, SÜT (MILK) contains several of the devices commonly associated with director Semih Kaplanoğlu's work: long takes in which characters are seen to move through the frame; an absence of music or other sonic devices, save for the sounds of birds cheeping, lorries passing by on the road, or the sounds of daily life in a small town; and a concentration on the landscape at different times of the day. The story might be important, but so is the context in which it is set.
The film follows on from BAL (HONEY) - actually released two years after SÜT - by focusing on the adolescent Yusuf (Melih Selcuk) and his mother Zehra (Başak Köklükaya). They have now moved from the Black Sea to Tire in the west of the country, and eke out an existence by keeping a small herd of cattle and selling the milk to local people. This is a precarious life at best; when Yusuf fails to show up at a local apartment block with the daily deliveries, the customers turn away from him. Zehra seeks solace in the arms of the local station-master (Şerif Erol), which increases Yusuf's sense of alienation from his world.
Thematically speaking SÜT examines a world undergoing significant change: the rural way of life is being threatened by unrestricted urban development, with apartment blocks springing up all around Yusuf's town. Whereas once everyone would have been farmers, now they find gainful employment on the building-site. This might provide a stable source of income, but comes at a price: human beings are transformed into automata, with little time to reflect on the world. We see Yusuf's friend Erol (Orçun Kökşal) bemoaning the lack of opportunity to write poetry due to the exigencies of his job.
Yet it seems that the world has no place for poets any more. Yusuf's teacher Ali (Rıza Akın) - who was shown trying to teach writing to the young Yusuf in BAL - spends most of his days in the local bar drinking beer and reading newspapers, with neither the time nor the inclination to comment on his protegé's poetic efforts. Although Yusuf experiences the thrill of seeing his efforts in print, they do not help him to improve his existence. Kaplanoğlu underlines the sterility of his life by showing him sat at a typewriter in a darkened room next to a barred window - the classic prison-image.
In his daily life, Yusuf has an ambivalent relationship to his antique motor-cycle. While providing him and his mother with their sole mode of transport - so that they can sell their produce in the center of town - Yusuf is clearly ill-at-ease while driving it. In one sequence he falls off spectacularly, and is shown lying on the ground, foam trickling from the side of his mouth. Like his late father (in BAL) he is prone to epileptic fits. Contemporary societies have little or no use for such people; hence it is significant that no one comes to his aid, and he has to make his own way home-wards.
SÜT is perhaps more overtly critical of contemporary Turkish society than BAL, but nonetheless director Kaplanoğlu emphasizes the importance of human beings' relationship to the natural world around them. Selling milk - the natural produce of farm animals - helps to sustain that bond, while writing poetry offers an opportunity for individuals to reflect ontologically on their lives. It is a tribute to Yusuf's strength of character that he continues in both vocations, despite his reversals.
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