×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘Until I Lose My Breath’

An unsympathetic protag leaches interest from Emine Emel Balci’s debut feature about a working-class young woman with no role models.

With:
Esme Madra, Riza Akin, Sema Kecik, Gizem Denizel, Ugur Uzunel, Ece Yuksel, Yavuz Pekman, Pinar Gok, Yavuz Ozata. (Turkish dialogue)

Official Site: https://www.berlinale.de/en/programm/berlinale_programm/datenblatt.php?film_id=201506667#tab=video25

Is there a more overused opener in recent cinema than the back of someone’s head lensed with a bouncy handheld camera? In her debut feature, “Until I Lose My Breath,” Emine Emel Balci uses lots of such shots, along with tight closeups showing part of her protag’s head, but what’s revealed inside that head isn’t especially interesting. In fact, the lead in this intimate drama about a young woman, equal parts naive and spiteful, is essentially a mixed-up character more victim of her own stupidity than dupe of society. Presumably, that wasn’t the desired message. “Breath” will turn up at a few fests, but there’s little here for auds to hold onto.

There isn’t one scene in “Breath” without Serap (Esme Madra), an immature late teen who works as a runner in a sweatshop while she waits for her trucker father Mustafa (Riza Akin) to give up the road and find a job in Istanbul. It’s pretty clear he’s not interested in being tied down, but Serap’s painful emotional dependence on a largely absent father who barely seems to care is her most prominent personality attribute.

To be fair, her options are limited. She lives with her sister (Pinar Gok) and brother-in-law (Yavuz Pekman), yet both treat her appallingly, searching her backpack and pockets each night to check whether she’s hiding money from them (it’s one of the few truly disturbing scenes). She really is hiding cash, keeping her secreted savings at work, with the goal of making a down payment on an apartment she could share with her father.

But Mustafa keeps accepting more trucking jobs, lying to Serap by saying each long haul will be the last. Unable to take the humiliation at her sister’s anymore, she crashes with co-worker Dilber (Gizem Denizel), but when things there become tense, too, she starts sleeping in the depot of the garment factory. Granted, she has few choices, yet the ones she makes come from a place of senselessness and malice. Why would anyone be friends with this sullen, sallow-faced woman? Why would Yusuf (Ugur Uzunel), a delivery man for the factory and the only semi-pleasant person here, give her the time of day? When she sees him flirting with Dilber, she rats on them to supervisor Sultan (Sema Kecik), resulting in a further limit to her options.

It’s likely Emel Balci views Serap as a product of her environment — motherless, a father with no sense of responsibility to his children, a sister cowed by her husband. She has no role models, so she hasn’t the skills to sustain even a friendship. Yet by making her so unsympathetic, and denying her anything but destructive agency, the director-scripter places a barrier between audiences and the character that’s practically impossible to breach.

Keeping the camera constantly on Serap was likely conceived as a way of forcing viewer identification, and while Madra, in her first leading role, demonstrates solid acting chops, the forced proximity feels oppressive, and not in a good way. Lensing is trapped in an expected indie aesthetic, meant to feel gritty and raw but instead eliciting a “seen it before” response.

Berlin Film Review: 'Until I Lose My Breath'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), February 5, 2015. Running time: 94 MIN. (Original title: Nefesim kesilene kadar")

Production: (Turkey-Germany) A Prolog Film, Unafilm production. Produced by Nadir Operli, Titus Kreyenberg.

Crew: Directed, written by Emine Emel Balci. Camera (color), Murat Tuncel; editors, Dora Vajda, Emel Balci; production designers, Meral Efe Yurtsevn, Yunus Emre Yurtseven; costume designer, Manfred Schneider; sound (Dolby Digital), Joerg Kidrowski; line producer, Kaan Kurbanoglu; assistant director, Ozgur Sevimli; casting, Ezgi Baltas.

With: Esme Madra, Riza Akin, Sema Kecik, Gizem Denizel, Ugur Uzunel, Ece Yuksel, Yavuz Pekman, Pinar Gok, Yavuz Ozata. (Turkish dialogue)

More Film

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho reacts after winning the

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Soaring to $100 Million-Plus Memorial Day Weekend Debut

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake is on its way to a commendable Memorial Day weekend debut with an estimated $109 million over the four-day period. The musical fantasy starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud should uncover about $87 million in its first three days from 4,476 North American theaters after taking in $31 million on Friday. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content