out of Five
Running time: 122
With its mysterious miracle-performing protagonist who likes to howl and yelp at the female object of his affection, Kosmos is a bewildering and beautiful, if not entirely successful curiosity.
What’s it all about?
Turkish director Reha Erdem sets his strange, magical realist fable in a snowy Turkish town on the border with Armenia. The town is a closed, intimate place but when stranger Kosmos (Sermet Yesil) rescues a young boy from an icy river, its inhabitants are immediately grateful and welcoming towards this odd, dishevelled, preaching man, particularly Yahya, the boy’s father, and Neptun, his sister. After a spate of robberies, Kosmos’s curious behaviour (he only eats sugar, refuses to work and doesn’t behave as a good Muslim should around women) starts to arouse the townspeople's suspicions, but their distrust turns to awe as they discover that this sermonising thief possesses healing powers.
Three things hold Kosmos together – the vivid setting, the manner in which Erdem photographs the quiet, crumbling snow-covered town, and finally Sermet Yesil’s performance. It's far from easy to make his character's at times otherworldly, at times bestial behaviour absorbing - but Yesil does just that. Meanwhile the border town itself – complete with its pro and anti open border campaigners and with the sounds of distant gunshots – adds a much needed and authentic political backdrop to the story.
Erdem's film is far more successful when it has two feet on the ground (although there are some fantastic shots of Kosmos gliding magically up trees and over the snow). The nervous and insular border town which Erdem sketches is often far more intriguing than some of the director’s more leftfield preoccupations (he seems bizarrely transfixed by animals). The fantastical figure of Kosmos – half god, half beast – is strange enough but as the film progresses more and more peculiar events (such as a fragment of a space satellite which lands near the town) start to occur and with Erdem entirely unbothered by any explanations, it can make for frustrating and obtuse viewing at times.
Kosmos is a lyrical Turkish film with some stunning cinematography but one which can also seem scrambled and portentous at times.