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TIFF Review: Clair Obscur

clair obscur

A hospital psychiatrist and a troubled young woman admitted for care find themselves in repressive relationships.

Initial imagery as well as sounds of water create an impression that the viewer is drowning until the wide shot reveals rolling waves pounding upon rocks on a beach Looking out at the turbulent scenery is Chehnaz (Funda Eryigit) a psychiatrist who has an affluent and liberal lifestyle.  In contrast is Elmas (Ecem Uzun) who is married to a much older man and cares for her mother-in-law in a household dictated by conservative principles.  When Elmas is taken into hospital the two different storylines become entwined as Chehnaz attempts to uncover what happened to her patient.

The opening sequence establishes the atmosphere of psychological unrest that permeates throughout the movie. Water has a big role to play thematically which is expounded upon in a surreal dream sequence.  It also serves a distinction between the two different lives.  Chehnaz lives next to the ocean while Elmas is situated in a landlocked apartment building complex.  Warm and cool colours are alternated to heighten the sense of comfort and uneasy for different scenes.  There is quietness to the sound design which contributes to the psychological unrest.

Subtle touches such as Elmas doing a slight dance with a mop indicates that she is a free spirit being restrained.   Ecem Uzun is able to convey a haunted and troubled young woman with a performance that combines volatile outbursts with subtle facial expressions.  Funda Eryigit has a more reserved role that eventually has its own climatic confrontation.  The cast is kept to a minimum which enables the viewer to focus upon two female protagonists.  The pacing is slow which has to do it with the story being a character study rather than being driven by the plot.


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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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