Creating “Snow and the Bear” hasn’t been easy for director Selcen Ergun. Not because it’s her first feature film but because she had to deal with different uncontrollable events. The COVID-19 pandemic, global climate change, the frigid temperatures in Turkey, etc. However, after waiting for what for her must-have seemed like a lifetime, the movie finally premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. For her, an unforgettable moment. For the audience in Toronto, a stunning, chilling, mysterious thriller.
When nurse Asli (Merve Dizdar) is asked to fill in for the local doctor after he got stranded due to the snowy weather, she temporarily moves to this rural and small Turkish village. Despite the unfavourable circumstances, she’s fulfilling her duty as a nurse by helping out the villagers in the best way possible. It would just be great if they would follow her advice, though. Unfortunately, many want to wait until the doctor is back, while others think they’re okay when they’re not doing well.
The more they ignore her advice, the harder it gets for Asli to stay calm, which soon leads to friction between her and the villagers. While they advise her not to go out alone due to the unsafe, terrible weather and the possible dangerous bear attack, the only danger Asli has encountered during her stay so far is the people of the village themselves.
Local butcher Hasan (Erkan Bektas) is unhappy with Asli giving his wife medical advice. At the same time, policeman Samet (Saygin Soysal) seems to turn up everywhere unexpected “to protect Asli”. It becomes even worse for Asli when a missing person’s report hits the local police station.
During our interview (below), Ergun mentioned that the topics for this movie are based on what she encountered in life. First, the unbalanced power dynamic exists between men and women in the Turkish community. Hasan thinks he’s better than the nurse because he’s a man and knows his wife’s condition better than Asli. Many men also seem to have a better position in society and the working environment than women.
Another big topic in this movie is the current rapid climate change. The winter seems to be going on forever, so the villagers wonder if they will ever see the end of this. While the storyline becomes a bit repetitive when the film continues, the combination of those relatable, universal topics and the beautiful filmmaking makes “Snow and the Bear” a very compelling movie.
Right from the start, you see how beautiful the cinematography by Florent Herry (“Kaçis”, “Yaban”) will be. The gorgeous overview shot of the snowy, almost dreamy landscape. It feels very peaceful and quiet, but once the story starts, that peacefulness makes place for the shambolic houses in disarray and the potential dark secrets of the villagers. The story becomes darker, but the cinematographer stays stunning as ever.
Another aspect that makes “Snow and the Bear” such a fascinating film is that everyone, even Asli, might have a dark side to them. Who’s behind the disappearance, and is Asli as innocent as she seems? The nurse might feel like she can’t trust anyone in the village due to the weird circumstances and the apparent disrespect, but why should the people trust her? She’s a foreigner to them, a nobody who came to their village unwanted.
When casting the female lead for this movie, Ergun knew early on that she wanted Dizdar (“Organik Ask Hikayeleri”, “The Innocents”) as the nurse because she was familiar with her work. Casting her was brilliant because she delivers such a complex, multi-layered and very modest performance. While the casting of Samet took a bit longer and a few more castings, Soysal (“You Me Lenin”, “Remember Darling”) was the perfect choice for this role. His performance is as marvellous as Dizdar’s, and he delivers some of the more sinister moments in this film.
‘Nothing is ever black and white’. It’s something that has been proven for ages now. It might be something we forget, but we’re reminded of that in the most surprising way thanks to Ergun and her “Snow and the Bear”. Her debut feature is filled with important global topics, wonderful acting performances and mesmerizing cinematography, and that’s why we hope “Snow and the Bear” will head to more worldwide film festivals and/or gets a U.K. release date.
“Snow and the Bear” will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022 on the 13th, 14th and 17th of September.
THE QUICK SELL
A young nurse begins a new assignment at a wintry, remote village when a man goes missing.