Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
A group of men set out in search of a dead body in the Anatolian steppes.
There is a scene in this film, a background scene, that completely encapsulated the film for me.
It is a scene of two shopkeepers judiciously sweeping the bits of sidewalk and road immediately in front of their place of business. In between the two sweepers lies a huge mound of sand.
No matter how many times they sweep, within minutes all trace of their work will have disappeared.
It will have made no difference.
They keep sweeping.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan takes a microscopic look at the mundane in the form of a crime. A murder has been committed. A man is dead. All those involved in the business of crime, from the criminal to the prosecutor to the police to…
Not a traditional crime story by any stretch, but this kind of slow-art-film-meets-procedural has its own set of traditions (just one other example in this subgenre would be Police, Adjective). This is a beautifully shot and composed film, though, and it does manage to throw in more than its share of real surprises. There's a sequence involving the elusive corpse that drives the plot that slowly evolves into particularly black comedy, and an autopsy-room-climax that comes as close as you can to Grand Guignol with sound effects and a couple drops of blood.
I'm making this sound like a much simpler movie than it actually is, though - I almost want to watch it again as soon as possible just to untangle all of its mysteries. It's a real masterpiece, definitely one of my favorites of the year so far.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a film I find frustrating not because of its languid pace, but because of its lack of commitment to what seems to be its initial focus. The first hour or so of the film had me entranced in where it was going, and then it lost me when it arrived at a specific point sooner than I had expected, only to slug its way towards the finale and abandoning everything that had made it interesting in the first place.
The film's premise is impressively simple and interesting: Watching a small group of men search the fields of Anatolia for a dead body as they have conversations about their lives and other small topics…
There was a time in the film's final hour when I found myself thinking it had outstayed its welcome, the true relevance of its thematic material by then already revealed and its message truly conveyed. It took but a few minutes more to convince me of the foolishness of such thoughts. Ceylan's 150-minute film may seem an almighty slog through the Turkish countryside, but what he achieves in this time is a remarkable rendition of humankind's attitudes towards mortality and the incongruities of our own species. Easily the most beautifully photographed film of the year to date, it thrives on panoramic views of nature invaded by man, the rolling hills of the rural scenes eerily illuminated by the ghostly flickers…
This is how you make a movie. Based on true events the film aims to be a realistic portrait of the event and the setting where it took place. It succeeds greatly.
The setting is Turkey and the film is BEAUTIFULLY shot. The scenery is amazing and the camera work which includes plenty of great wide shots really helps set the mood. The movie starts with police searching the vast hills for a dead body in the middle of the night. Amazing.
Everything is very restrained. Some people might find it too slow but I think most Letterboxd viewers can handle it. There are so many things this movie does well and the dialogue is near the top. A large…
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Really good character study around a perfectly skeletal plot with strong performances. The police chief, the doctor, the prosecutor, and the mayor all really stood out to me. Each has his own story that could support an entire film, but those stories were so disconnected from one another - it definitely sold the theme of isolation and alienation.
I did think it was a half-hour too long, and the scenes once they got back to town dragged. They could have brought forward some of the exposition in those scenes into the driving narrative and ended as they drove away from the final field.
Films like this are a dying breed. Embrace it, even when it gets cold.
This film will make you wonder over things dark and bleak in way that is, in some strange way, refreshing.
El rey león nos hablaba del ciclo de la vida. Érase una vez en Anatolia nos habla del ciclo de la muerte, el que comienza cuando una vida se acaba a manos de otro. La rutina no se puede retratar con viveza, hay que tratarla como se hace en este film siguiendo la escuela de Memories of murder o Zodiac. 150 minutos para un vida, "una más" de los millones de crímenes al día en todo el mundo, una gota perdida en el agua. Como esa joven que desperdiciará su belleza y su bondad en un páramo deshabitado donde sólo hay cabida para crudeza.
Not sure what all the fuss was about
It is the very definition of slow burn, but the light it eventually throws upon its characters as we spend this time with them is astonishing.
Much like the light of the protracted shots of cars' headlights piercing the darkness on country roads, which are breathtaking and painterly like all of the cinematography.
It's compelling in its bleakness but I would argue it doesn't have to be quite as long as it is to convey that.
An incredibly atmospheric opening promises something special (and reviews would seem to suggest that if you didn't love this film then, frankly, you should be put in the stocks and be pelted with rotten fruit: apples would be appropriate.) Aside from some memorable moments (an angelic presence delivering sustenance; lingering and sweeping shots of winding, dusty, rural roads; a prosecutor referring to a body as being similar to Clark Gable; and rolling fruit) I struggled to engage, even though I very much wanted to. Perhaps it is like looking at a painting in a gallery: some people see appealing colours and technically proficient brushstrokes, some see the meaning of life. I saw a beautifully crafted film with strong characters, I just couldn't find the meaning for myself in their lives.
It starts out very well-paced and defines a good atmosphere. But near the end it seems to lose track of where it was initially going.
Too long, too slow, just the type of film to win awards at film festivals.
And it did.