Winter Sleep

Winter Sleep ★★★★½

Palme d’Or winner, current CIFF stand-out, and my favourite film of the year is undoubtedly Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s monumental effort. Think of it as a literary masterwork in which distrust, predicaments, responsibilities and malevolence offer no escape in their godless universe. Such classic themes are so leisurely paced over a mammoth 196 minute duration, assaulted at you in loquacious retorts and forefronted on the indulgent ego of a vicious man.

Forefronted to the extent of a rather explicitly thematic image. Ceylan's camera pulls in towards middle-aged actor turned hotelier Aydin's (Haluk Bilginer) dorsal head, as he peers through a window of consummate Anatolian beauty. It's the clearest of indications that we'll be spending an exhaustively engrossing length into the mind of this punishing watcher.

Simply put, without spoils, Winter Sleep pits the wounded rich and deeply resentful inside an unforgettable chill. Not even the clanging iron furnace can match the heat of each and every argument. Most memorable sequence is the 20-minute back-and-forth between Aydin and his sister Necla (Demet Akbağ) as they navigate over past failings, criticisms, idealism, laziness, ugly truths and nastily personal digs. It's one of the most articulate and insightful exchanges ever penned in a film.

Egregious half-a-star missing as the second variation on this scene is its weakest segment. Another lengthy exchange has Aydin and Nihal in marital woe—which is fine, one of the film's main themes is about discontent in stasis, but it's more pronounced than what came before. Excise the adjectives, and keep it more direct, as all of the previous discourse was. Slightly better is the train station delay with Aydin and Mr. Suavi, though for me it actually rejuvenates at Hamdi house when discussing moral values.

That said, Ceylan is mostly masterful at disentangling the implacable threads of human exploration. This continues to engross until the final stretch and even by shifting outside of Aydin's arrogant pride. To witness Nihal learn a life lesson or two from her naïve compassion is taken to an emotional epicenter. When the dialogue is briefly ditched, this has such a graceful alternation of chilling interiors and sweeping exteriors, too. I await something to dethrone this. We shall see.

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