Shot analysis :
Isa and Bahar take a sunbathe on the beach, the sun is hot, their skin is greasy and sweaty. She wakes up from a bad dream (she imagined he smothered her head with sand), uncomfortable and lonelier than ever. I believe it's right after the argument they have at a friend's dinner and before the motorcycle ride.
The composition of this static shot is very classic, almost like a kitsch romantic postcard : the beach, the sea, the sky, a couple side by side on the beach cut out in backlite silhouettes. The woman in the distance, out of touch object of desire, and her "prince" in the foreground. They think about eachother and dream of love.
But since the opening sequence (then comfirmed with the bad dream) we know the romance is gone between them. The shot starts with Isa (him) lying down. I can't remember his dialogue (maybe he's still asleep), but I think she doesn't utter a word since the bad dream and just walks away to sit over there (photo above). They are still together at this point but cold and distant. So the dreamy look of this shot is contradicted by the inner conflict bubbling under.
We see a couple sitting away from eachothers, it's easy to understand something wrong is going on with this couple. Not quite the fusional passion of the early days. But the symbolic analysis tells us more about them. What makes this composition so important is there is no other camera angle (that I recall of) to show this part of the scene, no countershot to see her face, no shot of the boat alone, or her in the foreground. This is the end of the scene (long still take) that states, in stasis, the status quo of their relationship (which is not satisfying and shall be disengaged).
The screen is divided horizontaly in 3 strips (sky, sea, beach) with different colors and textures. The beach limit marks the middle, twice as thick as the "sea" and "sky" areas above the mediane. The unity of colors reinforces this grouping, sky and sea are light grey, bright, transparent, etheral, while the beach is rough, darker and textured.
Now the symbols. Each area has its figure that sits on the lower limit, as if stacked on top of the strip below.
- (1) Beach + Man => Earth (materialism) / here / heat / Male
- (2) Sea + Woman => Water (desire) / apart / cold / Female
- (3) Sky + boat => "Heaven" (ideal) / faraway / dream / Love
This already establishes the partition of (symbolic) space and the clash between characters. Which has not been properly spelt out thus far by the film and announces their violent split up in the next scene, because he didn't see it coming in this scene and didn't hold her back when it was still time.
- (1) The man lies alone, next to an empty space, where used to lie his partner, metaphor of a bed. The image of the broken couple : "she's gone".
He's in the foreground, because the film always assumes his subjective viewpoint. Nuri Bilge Ceylan is the auteur-director-actor. So this mise-en-scene, here, puts the audience in his shoes.
Then he sits up, and his body fills the beach area (photo above). His head emerging, reaches out just above to enter/overlap the sea area (2), in an attempt to get in touch with her, but without moving/speaking. He looks over at her in the sea space. So the composition illustrates his inner questioning/puzzlement and above all his inability to formulate/address the problem.
- (2) The woman sits alone. Unlike for the man in (1), there is nothing next to her that could tell us she waits for someone, or that someone is absent. That's because she's already away, detached from him. We can see this, but does "He" understand it? She stands there like a single woman, a stranger, and looks away to (3), the horizon of brighter expectations.
- (3) The sky and the white sails of a boat sitting on the horizon. Obviously a symbol of escapism, fantasy and idealism. That's what she wants inside, without saying (that's why she sits still in this composition). She needs something else that she doesn't have. She dreams of heavens. The boat cruises slowly between the two of them, marking a triangular figure between him, her and a symbol of ideal love that is gone.
I could further argue the boat goes right-to-left, which means backward in time, towards the past (left = past / right = future), from her to him, and moving past them, away from what used to be this couple, a momentary hope to go back to how beautiful love once was.
Acquarello associates the motorcycle accident following this scene (when she blinds him with her hands to kill them both), with the symbolic blindness of him who couldn't see how unhappy she was, how their couple was going to an end.
"[Isa] deliberatively shoots a series of photographs of ancient ruins for possible use in a class lecture, oblivious to his traveling companion's noticeable discomfort and tedium over his latest distractive side trip (a figurative myopia that would subsequently be manifested in Bahar's reckless, symbolic act of blindness during a motorcycle ride), her sense of profound desolation and estrangement momentarily betrayed by the eruption of tears that also escape the self-absorbed Isa's regard."
(s) ++ (w) +++ (m) ++++ (i) +++ (c) ++++