‘About Dry Grasses’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Does Samet Leave The Village?


Iconic Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the maker of films like Once Upon a Time in AnatoliaWinter Sleep, and The Wild Pear Tree, once again proves his brilliance in encapsulating the complexities between man and society in his latest work, About Dry Grasses. The film’s plot is centered around Samet, a school teacher posted in a remote village in snowy Anatolia who desperately wants to leave the place. Ceylan masterfully presents an introspection into his far-from-perfect protagonist while also painting a picture of the regional culture and struggles through the other characters seen in the film.

Spoiler Alert

What is the film about?

About Dry Grasses begins amidst heavy snowfall at a small village in Eastern Anatolia during the harsh winter season when the entire area is covered under a thick white blanket of snow. A man is seen getting off a bus on the main road and walking the fairly long distance to the village and to the house, which has been his home for the past four years. The man, named Samet, is an art teacher at the local government school, and it is his profession that has kept him living in the village for all these years. Although Samet is not at all happy with his current surroundings, both because of the extreme cold and the comparatively conservative nature of the villagers, he has no option as his posting is determined by the government. With the desire to move to a modern city like Istanbul, he returns to the village for one last term, hoping to file for a transfer at the end of the session.

Despite his deep displeasure with the village, Samet is not without friends or company at the place, as he shares his current residence with a colleague, Kenan. Along with being his friend and colleague, Kenan is also the history teacher at the same school. The protagonist also has quite friendly relations with people from both sides of the law in the village, including the army men posted at the place and also the rebel opposition. Most importantly, Samet is also quite loved and looked up to by his young students, many of whom greet him back at school after the vacations are over. Although he is seemingly not very good at art and also does not practice his teachings himself, the students enjoy Samet’s classes and his company, and a young girl named Sevim is the closest to him. Much to the displeasure of some of the other students in the class, Samet is quite partial towards Sevim, and he also has a habit of gifting small items to her from time to time. 

However, matters get more complicated when a particular incident lands Sevim in trouble with the other teachers, and in turn, a distance grows between her and Samet. Within the next couple of days, Samet learned that some students had lodged an official complaint against him and Kenan. The principal, a much younger and less experienced man than the two teachers, takes the complaint forward to the Director of Education. The complaint, filed by two students, states that Samet and Kenan often behave inappropriately with their students, and although they do not get into any serious problems, their reputations in this small, backward village are tarnished. Samet is even more shocked to know that it was his favorite student, Sevim, who had put in the complaint, and this triggers a series of strange reactions from him.

Is Samet to blame for his actions against Sevim?

Over the three hours that About Dry Grasses goes on, the protagonist Samet is gradually uncovered as a man with tremendous faults and unnecessary complications, but he is also ultimately like so many of us. In this sense, Samet is as real a character in a film as possible, for he has plenty of shortcomings, which ultimately also make him realize the importance of matters he once ignored. In the case of his relationship with Sevim, the blame has to be put entirely on Samet, simply because of the difference in age between the two and the level of maturity to be expected from both of them. As part of his habit of gifting things to the students, Samet gives Sevim a pocket mirror on the day of the school reopening after the vacations. This mirror, along with a love letter, is confiscated from Sevim’s bag during a routine search at the school.

Being a conservative place where societal rules and traditions are placed way above individual expressions and freedom, the love letter is not appreciated by the teachers at the school, although Samet has no problem with it. He manages to get hold of the letter and also the mirror, with the intention of saving Sevim from any trouble. He starts to read the letter, though, and when Sevim comes to him soon after asking for it, he lies about having torn the piece of paper. A characteristic of Samet is to blame every problem on the social backwardness of the village without actually trying to understand the mindsets. Therefore, he simply does not get the fact that his young student does not want him to read her private love letter, even though Samet probably tries to read it only as a means of respite from his otherwise drab life.

The girl does not believe her teacher’s claim that he has destroyed the letter, and this leaves her angry and frustrated. Given Sevim’s age and the fact that her only counsel in this matter is her boyfriend, who is also around the same age as her, revenge is the only viable option they can think of. This act of revenge is also carried out in perhaps the most awkward of terms, as Samet is blamed for misbehavior and inappropriately touching his female students, and his housemate Kenan is also thrown under the bus. Firstly, we are not shown enough of Kenan’s actions in school, and it might very well be that he did genuinely commit the acts for which he is blamed. But in the case of Samet, there is definite proof of him getting quite physically close to students like Sevim, although probably never for the wrong reasons. 

The relationship that Sevim and her teacher share initially is quite wholesome and enjoyable, even though there is room to argue that Samet should have maintained a bit more boundaries between them. But the very bond and the very moments of innocent touch initiated by Sevim herself are at present used against the man in a serious manner. While Samet already committed mistakes in letting a female student come so close to him and in giving her gifts in a direct act of favoritism, his bigger fault is in being completely blind to Sevim’s naturally childlike perspective. The man is furious at the fact that his favorite student first does not believe him and then even files a complaint against him. Samet grows vengeful against the young girl, completely missing the point that his student is not comfortable with him knowing everything about her life and is also not mature enough to deal with the situation very well. In fact, even on the very last day of the school year, when Samet has already decided to leave the village and take a transfer somewhere else, he still expects an apology from Sevim for her actions. This proves that he still holds on to the grudge from the past, as his ego does not allow him to consider the girl’s act as anything more than a direct and unjust betrayal against him.

Why does Samet get romantically involved with Nuray?

During his time at the village, Samet gets introduced to an English teacher named Nuray at the army school through his contact with the army commander. Although he enjoys their first meeting at a local cafeteria, the protagonist decides not to pursue any relationship and instead shows Nuray’s photos to his housemate, Kenan. Samet knew about how Kenan, especially his family, wanted him to marry soon, and in a sort of pretension to seem very gracious, he suggested that Kenan pursue Nuray. Within a short while, the three start to hang out together, and they become friends, while Kenan genuinely makes all efforts to romantically get involved with the woman. There is a certain sense of civility and goodness in Kenan, which he hardly ever loses, even by the end of the film, and so his intentions with the woman are also very straightforward. However, there is also an inherent bitterness seeped inside Samet, which makes him act in ways that only end up hurting others, and this is exactly what happens in this case.

Out of a sense of despair and frustration, Samet decides to stay away from any romantic involvement with Nuray, but then the woman’s appreciation of Kenan immediately lights up a spark in the protagonist’s eyes. Samet is unable to live with the fact that two individuals are willingly moving towards a relationship in front of him, especially since he was the one to introduce them. In an act that is perhaps akin to primal jealousy and insecurity, Samet cuts Kenan out of the equation by not even informing him about Nuray’s invitation. Instead, he goes to her house alone, and the loneliness in both their lives leads to them getting physically intimate. Despite this night of romance, Nuray still wants to maintain her friendship with Kenan, and knowing well how the latter has been trying to pursue her, she tells Samet to not tell him anything about their night together.

However, Samet falters once again, for his inherent bitterness once again pushes him towards proving to the world that he is better than everyone and that he has won in life. Samet tells Kenan exactly what happened between him and Nuray, knowing extremely well that it would terribly hurt his friend and colleague. There is a perverse pleasure that he experiences through this act, which also stems from the fact that he is an outsider who considers himself far superior and more intelligent than Kenan. On the other hand, the friend belongs to the village and is, therefore, a simple and rustic fellow, according to Samet’s prejudiced perspective. Nuray is unfortunately caught up in this mess, and although she had strived for the freedom and agency of women for a long time in her life, she ultimately realizes that both men still form moralistic judgments of her based on her choices in a vulnerable state.

Does Samet leave the village in the end?

In About Dry Grasses‘ ending, Samet is granted the transfer that he wanted after serving for four years at the school, and he is finally able to leave the village with the hope of a more cosmopolitan setting. Throughout his time at the village, Samet is an utmost misfit, as he is frustrated with everything around him and yet is ready to do nothing to make things better. This places him in stark contrast with the likes of Kenan and Nuray, who still hope to improve the living facilities and societal conceptions in the village. Despite having access to both kinds of people—the authoritative army and the local opposing rebels—Samet lacks the depth to understand any of their situations and difficulties. His foreignness at the village is probably what is signified through the strange scene, in which Samet is suddenly seen walking out of a film set when in Nuray’s house, only to take a pill.

In his head, Samet is like the glorious hero in a film who suffers and struggles with daily life in a small, backward village and gets his big break when he is able to woo an educated and talented woman. Notably, Nuray had also spent many years in the modern cities of Turkey, despite her family belonging to the villages of Anatolia, and so she is worthy of his attention. However, even with the presence of these many egoistic and selfish drawbacks, Samet is the very believable protagonist of the tale in About Dry Grasses, and so the film must focus on his learnings, too. Despite being prejudiced, Samet is actually not blind to changes, and he ultimately realizes that the experience at the small village has also enriched his otherwise insignificant life. Samet still thinks of Sevim, establishing a mental monologue with her, and stresses the frailty and uncertainty of life, along with the fact that there is a little bit of loneliness that will always stay as part of our lives, no matter what we end up achieving. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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