Winter Sleep

Winter Sleep ★★★★½

Initial thoughts can be found here.

Such deep reward to recoil in the Cappadocian limestones again. Aydin, the self-satisfied hotelier, is so cocooned in his own arrogance. The former actor has an inflexible pride which tries to justify itself through past and current achievements. It's an obnoxious facet that Ceylan patiently writhes into Aydin's core and we're forced to engage with it.

At first, he's charming to his guests and thoughtful to his friends. But there's a deep-seated jealousy in his denigrating laugh and tendency to humiliate others. His idealist wife Nihal is the culprit of this cruel condescension. And to Necla, his bored sister, the man is slowly revealed as a columnist who pontificates on moral precepts and hates all of humanity.

All three will clash as Ceylan unwinds the scornful threads of human exploration.

For starters, his screenplay is rich with dramatic suspense. Like an audacious composite of the literary, theatrical and filmic as one. It's a trifecta masterstroke which never feels jarring throughout this mammoth 196 minute runtime. There's plenty of conversational immersion about resisting evil in a setting that could freeze one's bones. Some philosophical debates can have a double-edged sword, but those in Winter Sleep are used to gnaw at lifelong wounds that have been pent-up in colder times. The characterization is nothing short of multi-dimensional.

In conveying these arcs, the film squabbles between its parties who are seeking their final say or attempting to reconcile a disagreement. Aydin's poor tenants use honour as their driving force, but to no satisfaction, since they can't maintain their lease payments. Only so many welcoming visits and apologies can be brought to him.

So we're resorted to a sequence in which Ilyas is forced to kneel and kiss Aydin's hand for redemption. It doesn't pan out. Later, a gesture of generosity from Nihal, is forcefully rejected. It's a brilliant type of thematic coupling which not only works on a wider spectrum, but makes the inexperienced Nihal realize why her compassion was so ruthlessly stripped.

Ultimately, the film runs a complex gamut of creating this multifarious portrait in Aydin himself. After all, there's reason in which the camera moves towards his dorsal head and we're forced to spend time in it. His merciless tendencies continue to run deep and Bilginer utterly sells it as a person who has now understood what fuels these actions. In the final scene, to hear him simply narrate his feelings to Nihal, not even break the self-absorbed pride that's consumed him—may be the greatest human tragedy of all.

He still can't express it properly. What staying power.

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