Merve Dizdar, the luminous Cannes interpretation prize for Les Herbes Sèches

Merve Dizdar, the luminous Cannes interpretation prize for Les Herbes Sèches

In front of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s camera, she admirably portrays a young teacher with one leg amputated after an attack, with which two of her colleagues fall in love. Encounter.

What memory do you keep of the day of the Cannes awards?

Merve Dizdar: We learned at the end of the morning that the film was going to be rewarded with a prize, but obviously without knowing which one. I can just assure you that not for a second do I think this award is for me. I really took full advantage of this festival since after the screening of the Dried herbs, I stayed in Cannes until the closing day, just popping over to Turkey for a day of filming, so I was able to see most of the films in competition. There were so many strong female roles and interpretations that impressed me that I had a good half-dozen actresses in mind for this award, but not me! (laughs) So imagine my surprise when I heard my name. That night I lived like a daydream

Which films particularly caught your attention?

The Zone of interestin particular for the composition of Sandra Hüller which seemed to me untouchable for the price of interpretation but also May december by Todd Haynes with Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore.

How did you come to be an actress?

I started doing theater very early, child, in primary school. This is where my desire to become an actress was born. So I studied drama at Onsekiz Mart University in Canakkale and then at Kadir Has University where I obtained a master’s degree. I then started to work professionally, at the beginning of 2010, in the theatre. It was the heart of my job and it still is. Since my debut, I have played at least one piece a year. And to tell the truth, no doubt for a matter of experience, I find the cinema a more complex exercise than the theater for me, in the construction of a role.

However, you have worked just as regularly since 2010 on television as in the cinema. How did you come to Dried herbs ?

Very simply by casting. After a long process. But I really wanted this role and working with Nuri Bilge Ceylan!

What seduced you in this character of a professor trying to rebuild after having had his leg amputated, following an attack?

My character was not very detailed in the scenario, it was necessary to interpret what she could think. And what immediately struck me in the way Nuri Bilge Ceylan had imagined her was her impressive strength despite – or probably thanks to – what she went through. And who fights the deep feeling of loneliness that often tends to invade him


Once you have obtained this role, how do you compose it?

First there is the obvious. Fortunately, not having experienced in my life what she experienced in her flesh with this attack, it is impossible for me to feel what she may feel. But I was able to rely on the work that Nuri Bilge Ceylan asked us to do. He didn’t give me any particular reference, no movie to watch. He asked me to focus on my character’s feelings. And he immediately told me and my partners about his first requirement: absolute mastery of the text, which you have to know like the back of your hand. And this so that we can enter with fluidity into his way of working on the set where he likes to film the same scenes several times, interrupting us between takes and exchanging with us about the psychology of our characters. But all this can only be done if everyone knows his text. I had never had the opportunity to work like this, with both so much precision and no sideways compared to what was written or what I had been able to feel while reading it.

How would you describe what you experienced on set?

I experienced it as a laboratory. Shooting under the direction of Nuri Bilge Ceylan is like a dance where feelings mingle. I already liked his cinema before working with him. He is one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers along with Emin Alper (Burning days). I had seen all his films but when I discovered Dried herbs the day before its Cannes presentation, I was dazzled. It is so rewarding to work with him. Both for what you learn and for the way it sublimates you on screen.

Dried herbs. By Nuri Bilge Ceylan. With Deniz Celiloğlu, Merve Dizdar, Musab Ekici… Duration 3h17. Released July 12, 2023

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