Timeless work called ‘White as Snow’ / Jeanne Inness / Chicago
It is October 18, 2010 in Chicago and the green leaves in the park have changed from green to red, yellow and shades of green. Soon there will be snow.
And, my favorite film from this year’s film festival is a Turkish visual, timeless work called ‘WHITE AS SNOW’. I love this film because it needs no words and even the characters’ actions are instigated not by language but by feelings, visions, and their sensing from nature what they must do next
It is about a boy who trudges down a snowy path to a way station to try to sell passersby a yogurt drink to make enough to get some bread to feed his two younger siblings. His father is in jail for political injustice and his mother has to work for a mean old rich woman and can return to their mountain home once a week.
The wolves are howling and a white horse with a red gash on his left hip is seen running widely. The boy stays at his post late, trying to earn few coins and when he starts for home, it gets dark and the wolves are looking for dinner. Will the mother or either of the two men who start up the steep path reach Hasan in time?
But the real story is in the visuals of bare trees, the snow, the mountains, the clouds, the wind and evergreen clumps. The nature is so beautiful and yet can be so treacherous.
I love these kind of films, not only because they are the purest forms of cinematography but because of my own history growing up in the country of the central USA. My fondest memories are of the green shoots in spring, planting corn with my father, riding on top of the summer hay rack to bring home the load of loose alfalfa to swing up into the loft of the big barn for the cows winter feed, and then fall harvest of everything from potatoes to squash and beets. Then came the first cleansing, light fluffy snows. But there was also the trepidation, the fears, of a wind or hail ruining the whole year’s crop, of a tornado taking every thing, and may be us too,away, of the coyotes howling in the early morning and at dusk. I still love the sound of coyotes because I suppose I knew my father had a shotgun and rifle in the basement landing and would protect me from them. So even today when I hear them talking to each other in their yipping language, i just say, “Did you get a big rabbit for supper?”. But the big white wolf in the Turkish film may be a meaner beast, especially if a horse has ben attacked. My horses have known since their youth how to kick and outrun a coyote, the smaller American dog cousin of wild wolves.
But it was not always so safe on the prairies of the Midwest, USA. Willa Cather tells in one of her stories in the early 20th century or may be late 19th how a bride and a groom, leaving their wedding party late at night in a horse-drawn sleigh, are attacked and killed by wolves. This is a legend we carry with us and teaches us that nature is not the paradise that modern picture-taking tourist or ecologists understand.
‘White as Snow’ can mean pure as in the saying ‘pure as the driven snow’ or white as snow can imply coldness and freezing to death as those of us who flee to the south each winter know and are called snowbirds. The birds do know.
The film ‘White as Snow’ should have been categorized by the festival not only under family drama, but also nature and Mystical. For it is the mystical two-sided part of nature that these lovely characters must contend with in their struggle to survive in the wild.