Watchtower: Review

Watchtower: Review

This Turkish arthouse drama from writer-director Pelin Esmer follows two disparate people attempting to escape their pasts, and finding each other.

Originally made in 2012 and premiering at that year’s Toronto International Film Festival, The Watchtower now gets a belated UK home release through Network Releasing. 

Haunted by a tragic incident from his past, Nihat (Olgun Simsek) takes a job in an isolated watchtower from which he oversees a vast forest. With only the repetitive walkie-talkie chatter of his distant colleagues for company, and occasional trips to the nearest bus station, he spends months at a time scanning for the threat of fire.

Young woman Seher (Nilay Erdönmez) drops out of college to take an underpaid job as a long-haul bus hostess, carrying with her a constant reminder of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her uncle. 

When their two solitary journeys collide, the pair are forced to confront their consciences before nature and God. 

Watchtower is fairly typical of contemporary European arthouse style, with its long takes and unhurried pacing. The slow and often still cinematography provides both a sweeping vista of the scenic landscapes, and an unflinching gaze at the drama unravelling in its midst. While its subject matter is certainly bleak, the film’s refusal of overwrought melodrama, and its relatively slender runtime, mean it’s not as heavy or hard a watch as it might have been. Both the lead actors’ performances are strong enough to carry the weight of the story, especially when their understated grief inevitably breaks into a climactic storm of emotions. 

European arthouse cinema enthusiasts might not find much new in this film, but it does tell a powerful and affecting story with sensitivity and grace. 

Watchtower is available on DVD through Network Releasing from 20th August 2018. 

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