Wednesday, November 25, 2015
As a student of Literature, I had a tough time dissecting Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; the subtext was very difficult for me to fathom. But imagine my surprise when Turkish director Tolga Karacelik based his second feature Ivy on this very poem. Not only did it seem a daunting task, it was a mighty zealous one too. Ivy has the modern day setting of the “Ancient Mariner”, as it reveal the gradual psychosis faced by the sailors from boredom, deprivation and internal conflicts, on board the Turkish vessel as it lies stranded, off the coast of Egypt.
Ivy can be considered as a slow paced psychological thriller, with subsequent supernatural occurrences towards the end. Captain Beybaba takes in a few replacements at one port, in the hope to continue with his voyage to Egypt smoothly. The voyage is an important one for all the crew onboard since none of them have been paid for months. But both the captain and the crew get a rude shock when they learn that the ship owner has declared himself bankrupt and is now absconding. During such a circumstance if the ship anchors at the port, everything will be impounded. The only way out of such a clutch and ensure that they get paid their dues is that a minimum of six able sailors should stay on board the ship, for an indefinite period, until the legal morass is untangled.
The six who are left behind is an odd amalgamation. Apart from the captain who chooses to keep himself distant from the rest of the crew, there is the cook Nadir, Ismail, a religious family man, who abhors discourtesy and laziness, two dope smoking newcomers – Cenk and Alpher and finally a giant of a man – Kurd, a character of few words. The first few days pass away in easeful languor, but tempers soon begin to flare up in the face of the dwindling provisions and the vast emptiness of the ocean that the group has to face every minute of their day. The subconscious is numbed as the sailors perform their torpidly repetitive jobs; it further agitates them, and frequent fights break out between the group. While Alpher is quite harmless and usually follows Cenk’s lead, Cenk is the lax indolent provocateur, who is hankering for the keys to medicine cabinet, after his dope runs out. But things take a toll for the worse, when one from the group disappears and there are subsequent sightings of him, which is an eerie comparison to the ghost of the albatross.
What is unrevealed in the later segment is the fragmenting power dynamics of the ship. There is a sense of claustrophobia all around, as the sailors can see the shore but are unable to reach it. The shoreline feels near yet is far away and remains static. Time seems at a deadlock, thus reminding the audience every time of the ordeal of the sailors - “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” As the film navigates to its end, we sense a feeling of almost Kafaesque dread, fuelled with the paranoia encountered by the sailors. Ivy with all its efforts, moves sluggishly, but musters enough atmospheric charisma to generate as much as tension and abstruseness it can.