Reha Erdem’s Kars

Director of the movie Kosmos, which won wide acclaim at the 60th Berlin Film Festival, Reha Erdem told us about the city of Kars that animates his latest film.

You have said that everything about the city is cinematographic. How did you discover Kars?
I ‘discovered’ Kars two years ago when I went there for a traveling festival. It was a city I had seen before, but I didn’t get a chance to use my imagination then. ‘Cinematographic’ to me means ‘able to fire the imagination’. Kars is a place of imagination in that sense, not only for its landscape and architecture but for its rhythm of life as well.

You say the only spiritual therapy left now is in the east. Is Kars an eastern city?
I was thinking of Central and East Asia when I said that. What interests me about Kars is not its easternness but its altitude. Kars is a lofty place in both the geographical and the spiritual sense.  It is lofty too in the sense of time, as if it hangs suspended at that elevation, overlooking all time. A person feels ‘high’ there; in other words, he feels free.

Kosmos takes place in Kars in an undetermined time. Is Kars a place that is beyond time in your opinion?
Kars is not a place that can easily be said to belong to a certain time. I always try to use what we call in Turkish ‘geniş zaman’ (simple present tense) in my films, because it refer to all time, and Kars attracted me because it is beyond time. That, anyway, is the source of its bittersweet air, which I can’t forget.

Which places in Kars inspired you?
All of them, I could say. But what moved me the most is the square with the statue of Ataturk. It’s a vast plaza, of a breadth we don’t normally encounter in our cities. We waited for days to be able to film snow falling there at night. I could also include the river and its bridges, which lend an alluring air of mystery to the city and to life in general.