Children's curiosity about death and sex is one of the unspoken engines of childhood. In Times and Winds that exploration takes place in a tiny farming village in Turkey, and under the eyes of strict, often frustrated, often ashamed adults who, it seems, have made emotional exploration a taboo in even their own lives.
Director Reha Erdem, who also wrote and edited the film, casts a wide lens to show the simple beauty of the countryside and rural living, but also zooms in on daily realities, including animal procreation, animal slaughter, birth, harsh parenting styles. The film is about the tension between such raw experience being available for children to try and absorb, and the parents' repression of the desires and feelings that also arise naturally in their young.
Best friends Omer (Ozkan Ozen) and Yakup (Ali Bey Kayali) each yearn to beak free from their respective suffocating fathers. Yakup dreams of running off with the village teacher, while his father is continuously demeaned into submission by his own brutal father. There is one great telling scene in which Yakup goes to the teacher's house to peep in the windows, and runs into his father, who is there to do the same thing. Omer dreams of patricide, as his ailing father, the local imam, hovers close to death but still has strength enough to beat and berate Omer, while favoring his younger son. Omer tries to facilitate his father's demise through various means: buying a scorpion, emptying the medicine from his father's pill capsules, sneaking into his room at night to open the windows wide, letting the cool air in.
Then there is Yildiz (Elit Iscan), whose growing sexuality is hampered by her being used as surrogate mother for infants in the village and her endless chores. Given the patriarchal oppressiveness of the village, it is a safe bet that her burgeoning emotions would be most feared, though the film doesn't deal with that directly. She is more often than not seen observing, learning, but not acting on her growing understanding.
The film's sections are based on the five daily Muslim calls to prayer. These serve as oases during each day to find refuge from suffering and to be reminded of the hope that is always present. Also underlying the narrative is a series of lessons taught by the teacher (Selma Ergec), who leads the students in memorized recitations of the cycles of the earth, of light, of water, and of heat.
This reinforces the idea that nature, while predictable to a point, cannot be tamed. The natural cycles of life will occur no matter the obstacles. The film does not offer any resolution to these yearnings, as if to remind us further that change comes in its own time and on its own terms. The natural cycle is harsh, but dynamic. The music, by legendary Estonian composer Arvo Part, is often barely there, which works, as wind is a constant metaphor and companion for the kids as they slowly sense their avenues to freedom. His steady, quiet score is sure and dependable, like the seasons honored in the film.
Times and Winds is available from Kino Video.