Recently, I've become aware that certain films are able to transcend the medium by being completely self-assured in their atmospheres…
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…
This movie is slow. It's dark. It's foreign. And it's 157 minutes long. But don't run away just yet. Because there's a lot to appreciate here. Starting of course with its deliberate and contemplative slow pacing that fits like a glove for the type of film this is and the type of mood it tries to convey. The film takes place during a night and day and it follows a group of men in search of a recently buried corpse. The group consists of police officers, gendarmerie forces, the two prime suspects, a doctor and a prosecutor. During this search we come to know these people and get a glimpse inside their lives, what are they like, what interests them,…
There is a magical sequence in Once Upon A Time In Anatolia that has a dream like quality and works like some fresh air in a movie filled with linguistic violence, skepticism, despair and hopelessness: in the middle of a dark night a young girl enters the room with a lamp and serves the guests with glasses of tea. The girl’s beauty, innocence and honest look is the only source of hope and faith in this movie, it is the sequence that I will never forget.
This is not an easy movie to watch, it is 150 minutes long and it has a quite slow pace, but the main thing that makes…
This is my first meeting with a Nuri Bilge Ceylan film, and I was not disappointed. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a long, tiresome and difficult watch, and perhaps not for the restless, but it is a masterpiece, and the best of it's kind.
Through the night, three cars carry a small group of men around in the rural surroundings of the Anatolian town Keskin, in search of a buried body. The group involves police officers, a doctor, a prosecutor, two grave diggers, army forces, and two brothers, both homicide suspects. The darkness and the seemingly visual indistinctness of the barren landscape do not help, each spot looks the same.
It's an uncompromising film, seemingly possessed by some…
Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
These two Bible quotations, in my humble opinion, encapsulate the entire statement of Ceylan's new thought-provoking and mysterious crime story, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Leaving the crime plot elements aside, which are just the engine of the story, the answers are left intentionally unclear, but the messages are not.
First, appearances are deceiving, and the heart is an intrinsically evil mystery, even to ourselves. Our scope of things is incredibly limited, and in our attempts to rationalize events around us, past…
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.
Gorgeously photographed and emotionally complicated story of a group of police officials on an all-night search for a dead body in the hills of Anatolia. Hypnotizing and not for those with a short attention span.
I really tried to jot down some thoughts but all that rang in my head was:
So there you have it...
Nuri Bilge Ceylan skilfully captures the vastness of the Turkish landscape in the melancholic Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Unfortunately, with a running time of nearly two and a half hours, his meticulous craftsmanship leads to an uncomfortable sense of it being far too overly paced for it's own good.
It is the type of film that sits uncomfortably between art cinema and narrative cinema. With its foundations essentially resting on a number of interesting ideas related to character and story, it asks for a certain amount of investment from its audience. This leads to a sense that the majority of it's running time functions only to pad out the moments when it suddenly springs back to life.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia feels like the last procedural mankind should ever make, because it almost completely dismantles the genre. By "solving the whodunnit" and "catching the bad guy" before the movie actually begins, by making the search for the body as repetitive and wandering as humanly possible, and by focusing so much on the mundane conversations shared the group of searchers, Ceylan strips the procedural of all its glamour and glamour. All these men are only human: what they are doing is only a job.
Screenwriting gurus often mention the necessity of a "save the cat" scene, where the hero does something nice ("saves the cat") and gets on the good side of the audience. While this…
This film really is something quite different. I wish I was more familiar with Ceylan's past work so I would have known what to really look for, but I'm also glad I started with this. While watching the film I was paying more attention to the plot points and less on the characters. Once I started seeing what Ceylan was doing with them I shifted my view, which made the film even better. This movie works on all levels.
I really love the use of close-ups, especially the one where we slowly approach Kenan in the backseat with all the cops gossiping and what have you, and as we get closer and closer Kenan begins to doze off. The close-ups…
Annoying, placid intellectual masturbation for those who won't find anything magical in the technical aspect of the film. The film is one of those 'where nothing happens but you can interpret any which way' films and I have stopped bothering about 1. what the apple shot meant 2. why did the victim wear no undies? 3. why the doctor didn't report the dirt etc. etc. These are questions we will never know the answers to and that's all there is to it. There aren't any great ideas being explored in the film ok? The only idea being explored is 'shit happens and life goes on and people do bad shit, deal with it'.
3.5 stars for the craft.
Sparse, empty dark and brooding, a crime film without the mechanics of the usual plot lines. Beautifully shot, nuanced and acute characterisations make for sublime viewing. Not a lot happens, yet it does in an unconventional manner. Draw your own conclusions, it will make you think!
This film is expertly made, but only about half its scenes feel necessary. Stretching close to 160 minutes, Anatolia is a long, bleak journey that in all honesty does not lead much of anywhere. A few of the characters, particularly a Prosecutor reminiscent of Clark Gable, are well-developed and keep us intrigued. On the other hand, much of the conversation feels mundane, topics ranging from yogurt to "how are the kids?" esque discussion. The cinematography is quite beautiful, and a few truly haunting and thought-provoking images linger after the credits roll. Perhaps not the masterpiece some make it out to be, but definitely worth a watch.
What a masterpiece.
One of my favorite films of all time.
I wanna talk more and more about it but I'm really speechless.
- Only God Forgives
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- Spring Breakers
- A Field in England
- Clouds of Sils Maria
- Goodbye to Language
- The Homesman
Originally a list made prior to Cannes 2014.
This is every Palme d'Or nominee since the festival began in 1946.…
- Leon: The Professional
- Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Whisper of the Heart
With so many reviews on the site now it is easy to miss the good ones so I thought a…