About Dry Grasses Review: Turkish Character Study Unveiling the Human Soul

Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has been a force to be reckoned with in Turkish cinema. In 2008, the filmmaker stunned everyone with his film Three Monkeys (Üç Maymun), for which he won the Best Director accolade at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Three years later, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da) made everyone realize that Ceylan is one of the most influential faces of modern-day international cinema. After conquering the world with his impeccable skill, the filmmaker has now come forward with another extraordinary three-hour-plus film titled About Dry Grasses (Kuru Otlar Üstüne) that beautifully captures several facets of the human condition in the most amazing way possible.

The Story of About Dry Grasses

The movie had its world premiere at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and since then, it has earned universal acclaim from critics and audiences. Since then, About Dry Grasses has premiered at several film festivals worldwide and became Turkey’s official entry at the 96th Annual Academy Awards. The movie chronicles the journey of Samet (played by Deniz Celiloğlu), a weary art teacher in rural Turkey. The teacher has returned to the school after enjoying his time in a place that’s much more happening. Everyone loves him and adores him for being a gentleman. In the school, he has a favorite student named Sevim (played by Ece Bağcı). He shares a close bond with her and even brings a gift for her. On the other hand, Samet is also close with his roommate and fellow teaching colleague. 

However, things go downhill when Samet and his roommate are accused of misconduct with students. From trying to find who complained against them to befriending a woman who lost her leg in a terrorist explosion, this Turkish gem is a gorgeously shot film that makes viewers understand how things and feelings change in a matter of seconds. 

As a character, Samet is often unpleasant in the movie and screams loudly at people who don’t deserve that kind of behavior. However, one thing that makes About Dry Grasses such a compelling watch is how the filmmaker shows this character in the most humanizing way. But you would have to pay a lot of attention to what the characters are talking about. 

About Dry Grasses Review.
Still from About Dry Grasses. Image courtesy of Janus Films.

About Dry Grasses has lots of conversations

About Dry Grasses is an extremely talkative film. There’s a sequence in the film’s final few minutes where Samet and Nuray (Merve Dizdar) engage in a lengthy conversation while sitting at the dining table. Both characters are discussing issues that show a human’s character. Ceylan drops a unique style of filmmaking and directs these two characters, having a fifteen-minute sequence about sensitive topics. He just uses shots and reverse shots to make people understand the seriousness of the conversation. At first, viewers might wonder why this conversation is important. But, as it moves forward, you realize that everything happening on the screen is exactly what the filmmaker wants to tell us about human nature and thinking.

As far as acting is concerned, Deniz Celiloğlu delivers a splendid performance and gives viewers a closer look at how a single event can act as a catalyst, embedding resentment deep within. His actions might make you hate his character, but Celiloğlu never leaves a bit to bring his character’s point with authenticity. Meanwhile, Merve Dizdar might not have as much screen time as Celiloğlu, but she mesmerizes viewers with a hard-hitting performance whenever she is on the screen. (It’s no wonder she won best actress at Cannes for her portrayal.) Musab Ekici as Kenan is funny and keeps the film a little light-hearted. 

Still from About Dry Grasses. Image courtesy of Janus Films.
Still from About Dry Grasses. Image courtesy of Janus Films.

Multiple screenings are needed to grasp the depth of About Dry Grasses

The film doesn’t offer the immediate satisfaction of Winter Sleep (Kis Uykusu) or Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. The movie’s duration might not seem entirely justified at first glance, demanding patience from the audience. If you have watched previous films from Ceylan, you’ll know how patience is the first thing you require to view his projects. About Dry Grasses is nothing different and requires audiences to analyze every line and each idea. It’s really tough to grasp the entire idea of this movie in one viewing. But if you are patient enough, this film might be a rewarding experience for those who invest time. Multiple viewings are really necessary to understand the magnitude of the film’s story. The depth and intricacies unfold gradually and take time to settle in.

About Dry Grasses is 197 minutes long, and some might say it could have been shorter. But some of the film’s most extraordinary moments occur when it’s about to conclude, and when the end credits roll in, you just sit back and think you have witnessed something hard-hitting. It’s pretty difficult to make a serious movie that always wants you to be attentive. That’s why About Dry Grasses can be a little tough to grasp, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most essential pieces of cinema in recent years. Visually striking and thought-provoking! Magnificent.

Still from About Dry Grasses. Image courtesy of Janus Films.
Still from About Dry Grasses. Deniz Celiloğlu and Musab Ekici. Image courtesy of Janus Films.

About Dry Grasses premieres in U.S. theaters on February 23, 2024.

Have you watched anything by Nuri Bilge Ceylan? Are you interested in About Dry Grasses? Share your thoughts with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

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