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H o n e y ( B a l )

Semih Kaplanoğlu directs Bal (Honey), the last film of a trilogy about Yusuf, a boy with a singular relationship to silence and to words, who will go on to be a poet. The series of movies Bal, Süt and Yumurta relates the relationship between Yusuf and his mother, but Bal is about the loss of his father. The father is an apiculturist and harvests wild honey from the hives that he hangs from the highest branches of the trees. Their house verges on the forest which accompanies the story with its rhythms, its noises and its light. The story can be reduced to a very brief tale: the father names the objects of the world for his son and follows his lead in his treatment of language, tells him fascinating things and lowers his voice to speak to him. He also prevents him against sharing his dreams out loud. The boy says little, is curious, marvels at the work and creations of his father. He remains silent in the presence of his mother and becomes impatient on her lap. She speaks to, reprimands and cuddles him, but does not quite know what to do with him or how.

There is also the school Yusuf attends for the first time. He recites or perhaps reads a text for his father but cannot read another text in the classroom, invaded by an agonising stutter that prevents him from earning the longed-for prize and applause. During the recess, he watches the other children play through the window. One day, the father takes the beehives to a different part of the forest, to save the bees which have inexplicably begun to die. The branch that supports him breaks and he doesn’t come back home. Yusuf and his mother set off to look for him and in time, face the certain knowledge of his death.

The film is luminous, unhurried; it slows down our steps to accommodate them to those of Yusuf. It has no musical score, so we hear or do not hear with him the voices, the howls, the bleats, the melodies, the prayers, the recitations, the silences and the tumult of the world. The forest, the house and the school are the daily scenarios of his education. Yusuf learns from his father, in the same way the father learns from his son his conditions for a dialogue and which objects are of interest to him. He is much less docile to the teachings of his mother, who tries to institute the regularities of domesticity and to establish an exchange of shared gestures or words. Nevertheless, they have tacit agreements by which he grants her moments of closeness and a semblance of obedience, while she allows him his comings and goings and resigns herself to the father mediating between them.

The teacher preserves for Yusuf the place of the student, the very possibility of learning, but also offers him the necessary time for the words crowding in his mouth to one day come out. There are in the different adults who address Yusuf, including the grandmother who welcomes him and ministers to the mother's worries, a certain frugality of words, a non insistence and an acceptance of his singularities that allow him to inhabit the permeable margins of daily life. A distance, a silence or a softness that reduce the potential for devastation that words hold for Yusuf, who will go on to be a poet.

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