Elliot’s review published on Letterboxd:
NB - This is my review, originally published in the Mancunion newspaper back in November 2014
“As they say, life passes us by as we’re making plans”; I took note of numerous quotes during my time with Winter Sleep but this one I found most poignant. It is a film that feels no regret in evolving slowly and methodically through conversation over the course of its three hour, and then some, duration. This timescale alone is enough to deter many from giving Winter Sleep a fair chance, but I believe director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has created a true masterpiece with this picture.
Winter Sleep chronicles the daily life of Aydin, a middle-aged retired actor, whose day consists of managing his inherited real estate in the Anatolian countryside, most notably a tiny hotel (in which the majority of the film takes place). Aydin finds himself playing a balancing act, chasing his tenants for rent whilst trying to maintain peace at the hotel with his divorcee sister, Necla, and his much younger wife, Nihal. He is sent on a downward spiral after one seemingly insignificant run in with his tenant’s young son, after which he finds himself increasingly separated from his previous daily routine. At surface level, it may sound as though the plot lacks substance, particularly for its three hour runtime. Winter Sleep is not about where the narrative ends or begins, however; it is a fascinating and potent study of human nature, in Aydin and the surrounding players, tackling a cornucopia of themes while going against the grain of almost all cinema convention.
In the film’s lengthy discussions, it raises issues regarding religion, wealth inequality, good and evil, existentialism, loneliness, marriage, journalism and more of which I don’t have time to detail here. Others have drawn comparisons from the film’s structure and conversational nature to that of a novel, a view I fully agree with, least because Ceylan references authors such as Sartre, Dostoevsky and Chekhov as his inspiration in the closing credit reel. I must touch on Winter Sleep’s cinematography briefly; it is magnificent and picturesque, on multiple occasions making me wish I could pause the screening in order to absorb it. Inventive techniques with windows and mirrors are utilised throughout, reminding me of Farhadi’s A Separation, in which he used panes of glass to metaphorically emphasise the divide between his starring couple.
Winning this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes film festival, Winter Sleep is a masterpiece deserving of the prestigious award. I can’t recommend it enough.