Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
TIFF 2014 Film #2
Reason for pick, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan – Climates, 3 Monkeys, Once Upon a Time In Anatolia
Visually stunning and lyrically beautiful, Winter Sleep carries you along like a leaf on a river. It’s amazing how Ceylan can craft such an engaging story with only conversation; virtually eschewing a traditional story arc.
A common thread through Ceylan’s filmography is an un-hurried approach, and at nearly three and a half hours, it would be fair to say that Winter Sleep is his least rushed. While the thought of this generous runtime being filled with only characters conversing may sound tedious, it’s not. With every incident, every individual conversation, another layer is peeled away from our characters.
Haluk Bilginer leads a positively phenomenal cast of Turkish actors. Their brilliant realization of Nuri Bilge Ceylan and wife Ebru Ceylan’s words are what make Winter Sleep the masterpiece it is. Even the smallest role is rendered completely formed, and with a level of passion seldom seen.
It’s an uncommon thing indeed when cinematography this breathtaking takes a back seat, but here it does. Ceylan uses the dramatically beautiful features of his beloved Anatolia as a form of visual punctuation in-between conversations, almost like a sherbet between courses. Score is virtually absent, and sound design is subtle whistling of the wind or crackling of a fire. All come together with the superb acting to create what seems like an effortlessly naturalistic experience.
Ceylan tackles big themes like ego, self, class, and charity, but does it in such a lifelike way that you never feel like you’re being beaten over the head. The conclusions you come to are your own, not ones imposed on you, and that is what makes it such a brilliant film.
This is easily Ebru and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s most triumphant work, and completely deserving of its Palme d'Or.