Conceived through the division of the screen into nine cinematic frames, the film Soil narrates the journey of a young man carrying a handful of soil into the grave of a deceased soldier who happens to be burying his own dead body. With the form integrated into narrative, it is possible to watch every phase of his journey synchronically. Wherever he goes the smell of the soil remains the same.
- 18th International İzmir Short Film Festival, İzmir, Turkey, 2017 – National Premiere, Official Selection
- 15th Bogota Short Film Festival – BOGOSHORTS, Bogota, Colombia, 2017 – South American Premiere, Official Selection at International Competition in Experimental Category
- 37th Istanbul Film Festival, Istanbul, Turkey, 2018 – Official Selection at National Short Film Competition
- Delete TV 2018, London, UK – Official Selection
- The West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival, Mongantown, West Virginia, United States, 2018 – North American Premiere, Official Selection
THEME AND OBJECTIVE
Soil is the first film of the trilogy titled Three Soldier Stories, which deals with the alienation of a dead soldier to his body and the physical world following his death, a theme that will also be shared by future films Mirror and Wall & River. Glancing over his dead body, the soldier feels that it has belonged to him – at least at some stage of his life – and vice versa. This contradictory situation reaches its zenith when the dead soldier returns to the world he left and creates a bond with a person he knew in his past life. None of the films indicates any direct reference to the racial, regional and historical affiliation of the soldier. The only piece of information that is communicated to the audience revolves around the soldier’s encounter with death.
The common trait of all three films is the intention to handle the story from a formalist standpoint. As an extension of this idea, the split-screen technique is used in the completed work of the trilogy Soil to divide the surface into nine equal pieces whereby key acts could be displayed synchronically. Following the characteristics of its form, the upcoming film of the trilogy Mirror will be an attempt more akin to a single-screen short film, presenting one long continuous take (with undisclosed potential cuts) from a personal point of view (POV). And finally, the last project of the trilogy Wall & River – the sequences of which will be reflected on two screens synchronically – will be in the form of a two-channel video art.
THE IDEA OF SPLIT-SCREEN, SYNCHRONICITY AND THE LOOP
One of the previous works I shot as part of my Parallel Videos of Ferryboat Trips video series gave renewed impetus to my fascination with the form and also provided a starting point for Soil. Intended as the representation of a 49-minute ferry trip, the video came out as the recording of a sample voyage while ferry goes from one pier to another. To highlight a fragmented vision of the voyage, I chose to divide the video into one-minute takes and show them on a screen of 49 pieces.
As for the goal I have tired to accomplish with Soil, I decided to employ two different techniques – that is, the split-screen and the loop – in order to tell the single story of a young man fetching a modest amount of soil for the soldier who buries his own body. The chosen scenes, which are shown synchronically on a screen comprised of nine equal parts all, come back to the very start, which in turn creates an endless loop. Watching the loop at work – excluding the credits, of course – the audience can witness the action starting over in an eternal cycle.
All scenes are shot from an eye level camera angle as one long take. The viewer is assumed to be far away from the actual site of the events as in the artistic style of the Italian milieu of Quattrocento in order to ensure an objective composition not reducible to the authority of a single perspective. Passing from one screen to another, the ever-changing center of the composition is the figure of the young man itself. Even though the audience watches the young man’s journey scattered on multiple frames on a distanced and wide screen, it is possible to follow the events as long as the geometrical equilibrium with a mobile centre of gravity is kept. This being said, the main objective of the film is to come up with a distinctive, aesthetic approach in which one can image an almost two-dimensional platform and a video game like layout similar to a telephoto camera view instead of having lines (such as the horizon or walls and ground) drawn according to a certain perspective. Sound mixing is also carried out while taking the passage of the young man from one screen to another and the equilibrium among the sound elements of the multiple screens into account.
The main goal of Soil is to reach a certain state of harmony between the story and a set of formalist approaches to filmmaking. The idea is to inspire a motion-image experience in which diverse experiments like split-screen and loop create a story/space/event without setting limits for the author. As a result, the split-screen technique re-structures the story from a formalist point of view and surpasses the boundaries of the classical montage. Non-diegetic processes that would be left out of screen in a classical film montage are presented synchronically to spectators via the use of this technique. Thus, a sense of harmony is reached between cinematographic narrative and video art’s formalist approach.
The reason why I have chased this harmony is the way we encounter film screening not only in movie theaters but also in galleries, museums and public spaces in today’s world. The film will maximize its impact when it is shown on a large screen. Similar to a short film, it can also be screened – with credits – in a movie theater. Since the story comes full circle when it is screened in a loop with 17-minute cycles, the video is also suitable for black box screening. Thus, the project can be considered to hold a different structure based on both fictional short film and video art.
a film by ALİCAN DURBAŞ
cast – GÜRAY YALÇIN, CAN ÖZMEN, EFE ÖZMEN
producers – NESLİHAN OSKAY, CAHİT BİNİCİ, ONUR KOÇAK
director of photography & colorist – BERKER ERSOY
production designer – TUĞÇE AYDIN
art director – YAMAÇ TARAKTAŞ
sound designer – FURKAN UTKU GERÇİK
costume – BİLGE DURBAŞ
make-up artist – İREM NUR SAKAL
vfx artist – CENK PİRTÜRK
sfx artist – BERKE ALKAN
graphic designer – NACİ GÜNEŞ GÜVEN
storyboard artist – HACER KIROĞLU
gaffer – ERGÜN KANOĞLU
camera technician – EGEMEN TUNCER
production manager – GÖKSEL YILMAZ
production coordinator – MİNE ALPAN
captain – MEMİŞ ALPAN
translation – DAMLA KELLECİOĞLU, CAN GÜRSES, SENA DANIŞMAN
Special thanks to FAYSAL SOYSAL, PROF. T. MELİH GÖRGÜN, ERDEM TEPEGÖZ, MUSTAFA BERK, ERCAN KESAL, FAHRİ ÖZDEMİR, ÜNAL ERSÖZLÜ, CEYLAN ÖZYİĞİT, KADİR OKTAY, BÜLENT OKTAY, REFİK DURBAŞ, MAHMURE İLERİ, ESİN İLERİ, YELDA BİNİCİ, SUNA ŞEKERLİ, ALİŞAN ÖZKAN, BELKIS TURAN, İPEK ERDEN, EFE ERDOĞDAN, SILA KARAKAYA, HANDE GÜNDOĞDU, MURAT VAN LI, DENİZ GEDİK, OLGUNER OLGUN, DİLAN BİLİCİ, FEHMİCAN GÖZÜM, RO ÇİL, CAN BORA