Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011 dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Quite possibly the best film I’ve seen this year so far and strangely enough I’m not going to recommend it because of its length. I don’t know how many people can concentrate and enjoy a film of this length and more than a few people left the cinema within the first 20 minutes. Not a great start for the film or this review to mention this but I think if you’re the type of person who’s willing to read on and likely to brave three hours of cinema time then you’ll be well rewarded with what is one of the simplest yet divinely well made films I’ve seen in years. The director Nuri Bilge Ceylan writes and directs so well that the only other description I want to use is beautifully. I have never come across a film that used sound so well and to such an extent that entire scenes can be remembered by the noise that emanated from the screen. I am quite specific in my use of the word noise because I think the very texture of the film would be lost without this idea. There was a crispness of background noises that attuned the watcher to the very atmosphere of the film and in a way that wasn’t indulgent so that the each sound was the scene brought to life. All of this and the visual aspects in terms of lighting and colour, and to an extent the pace of the film combined in such a way that they created the essence of real smell, movement and memory of lives and stories that made the entire experience seem real.
The main story is told in 15 minute intervals where we are fed more information about the characters but not about the murder: the reason why the characters are brought together in the Anatolian countryside to find the body of the victim. Within the 15 minute intervals we get an illuminating conversation that reveals a little more about each of the characters, sometimes in funny Tarantino style dialogue and other times a more emphatic and deeper dialogue about the characters’ lives. The brilliance of this film is the real life aspect of having so many unanswered questions and our consistent search for the answers.
We’re never told the why of the murder, how the presumed murderer is captured and his interrogation and confession. We are left in an assumed state and still as the film draws to an end many of the answers to our questions remain light and almost fleeting as we don’t quite grasp the full meaning of what we see unfold. Despite this we’re not disappointed but rather like the character in the film we are instead left reflective. The men are full of personal questions and soul-searching as they move from one site to another in search of the buried victim and we bear witness to their thoughts as they’re voiced. We see the prosecutor coming to terms with the death or his wife and the doctor’s stoic yet pining for a lost love. We also witness what would seem to be the trivial parts of the police chief’s arguments with his wife and what is in fact a deeper problem of circumstance that puts him and, in their own ways all these men, in situations beyond their control and understanding. Perhaps this is what the story is showing us: how we cope and deal with loss as the circumstances of life either take from us or take us from one moment to another.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s