'Climates': Couple weathers life’s storms 

Falling snow coincides with a woman’s melancholy; a seemingly routine bit of sunbathing sparks a sandy nightmare; a jet traversing the sky sharply spells transition. "Climates," Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s deceptively low-key drama about temperamental shifts of both the meteorological and the human kind, may not have much adrenaline in its bloodstream or bang in its impact, but, as its protagonists unravel under changeable skies, it’s art-house poetry.

Working in a minimalist mode that has yielded comparison to Antonioni and Kiarostami, Ceylan ("Distant") presents us with a man, a woman and a disintegrating relationship. Three acts, three disparate settings and three weather conditions also are on the bill.

The tempest of sorts begins at a sunny Aegean resort. Here, Isa (played by Ceylan), a self-centered, middle-aged architecture professor, relates more to the Roman pillars than to his unhappy girlfriend, Bahar (played by Ebru Ceylan, the director’s wife), a younger TV art director. Bahar cries, laughs at Isa, and expresses her frustration with hostility. The pair split.

Next, we catch up with Isa in cosmopolitan, rainy Istanbul. He reignites with old flame Serap (Nazan Kesal) in an episode of extreme rough sex, a sequence that, because Ceylan shades it with humor, isn’t as disturbing as it probably should be.

Finally, Isa seeks a reconciliation with Bahar, having pursued her to the snowy eastern province where she’s working.

Monumental this isn’t. Ceylan never knocks you out, and his dearth of detail is sometimes frustrating. It’s hard to get a grip on Bahar, for example — despite the inner life that Ebru Ceylan conveys in the lengthy closeups her husband grants her — when we’re not sure why she’s crying.

But if he takes us only from A to C, Ceylan fills the gaps between those points with vital sensory ingredients (beads of sweat; heightened aural elements), palpable subsurface simmer, successful weather symbolism and an occasional, effective blast of heat. The sum total is an absorbing and a poetic portrait of the coupling mechanism, and the shifting nature of relationships, that never feels contrived.

The film also provides something rare on these shores, that being a view of the modern Turkish condition from a Turkish artist’s perspective, and coming from Ceylan, that seems to involve alienation, ennui and unease.

Climates ***

Starring Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Nazan Kesal

Written and directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Not rated

Running time 1 hour, 37 minutes

Subtitled; at the Opera Plaza

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