Distant ★★★★½

Foreign movies like Uzak require a special sensitivity and attentiveness - surely an adjustment from some of the spoon fed entertainment that I have become accustomed to and often admittedly enjoy. Rather than carried by plot or script, we are required to rely on a glance, a gesture, an expression, a colour, a sound, a movement of the body rather than a verbal expression or explanation. These effects serve as the lens through which we glimpse the virtue, the suffering, the truth that movies like this can so richly convey.

We follow first Yusuf and then Mahmut as they traverse the fragile path of intimacy in their lives. The movie is aptly named "Distant" as we are exposed to the many occasions that real human connection is waylaid by resistance, awkwardness, fear and judgments. The results are often painful, deep loneliness and isolation the tragic result.

The inner struggle that both Yusuf and Mahmut encountered with their ambivalence toward intimacy gave this film its peculiar strength - and its impact on every viewer who has ever wrestled with such ambivalence. That includes each one of us!

I was reminded of how frequently I shy away from intimacy while succumbing to inadequacies or relying on strategies very similar to the ones revealed in the lives of our two friends:

Pretending, posturing, hiding, pursuing from a distance, seeking artificial substitutes for real intimacy, pushing away with judgments, protecting my petty and obsessive preferences for organization and cleanliness, defeated by a fear of rejection, and subjected to awkwardness and incompetence.

This movie had a particular impact on me. I was left in silence following the credits to contemplate my own deep yearning for intimacy and the frequent elusiveness of it - which in turn confronted me with the deep wound of my own loneliness.

It seems fitting to conclude with a (lengthy) quote that I encountered in the conclusion of a book I just finished reading on human community and connection:

"This book has been about community . . . But when all is said and done, each of us, and in the deepest part of our self, has to learn to accept our own essential solitude.

"In each of our hearts, there is a wound - the wound of our own loneliness, which hurts at moments of setback and can be even more painful at the time of our death. Death is a passage which cannot be made in community. It has to be made completely alone. And all suffering, sadness and depression is a foretaste of that death, a manifestation of our deep wound which is part of the human condition. . . . We can experience moments of communion and love, of prayer and ecstasy - but they are only moments. We quickly find ourselves back in the incompleteness which is the result of our immortality and limitations and those of others. . . .

"Even the most beautiful community can never heal the wound of loneliness that we carry. . . . Those who enter marriage believing that it will slake their thirst for communion and heal their wound will not find happiness. In the same way, those who enter community hoping that it will totally fulfill and heal them, will be disappointed. We will only find the true meaning of marriage or community when we have understood and accepted our wound. It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of marriage or community. It is only when we stop seeing others as a refuge that we will become, despite our wound, a source of life and comfort. It is only then that we will discover peace".

- Jean Vanier in "Community and Growth".

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