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Dreaming in Anatolia

The mysterious world of the Palme d’Or-winning “Winter Sleep”

Nicholas Barber | November/December 2014

When you watch a Nuri Bilge Ceylan film, you’re transported to a distant land. In literal terms, that land encompasses the windswept steppes and looming mountains of the Turkish countryside, territory which this writer-director made his own in his hugely acclaimed, hypnotic crime odyssey, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”. It’s a terrain of wild horses and humanoid rock formations—a fantastic setting which could double as an alien planet or an elvish kingdom without any assistance from CGI. But Ceylan’s Anatolia isn’t just defined by its geographical wonders. Its dreamlike atmosphere is even more distinctive.

His new film, “Winter Sleep”, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s a Chekhovian drama, partly based on Chekhov’s short stories and revolving around a complacent hotelier (Haluk Bilginer), his bitter sister (Demet Akbag), and his frustrated, much younger wife (Melisa Sözen; exquisitely nuanced performances, all). Their cave-like hotel seems to be a cosily beautiful haven, but when the tourist season ends, and there are fewer guests to distract them, they start to feel trapped in an exasperating limbo, somewhere between the 21st century and the Middle Ages. Whatever they do, mysteries aren’t quite solved, logic doesn’t quite apply, and philosophical conversations spiral and swirl, without ever reaching a conclusion. Pay them a visit for 200 minutes, and the rest of the world will seem far away. ~ nicholas barber

Winter Sleep opens in Britain Nov 21st

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

Interstellar (Nov 7th). Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” attracted Kubrick comparisons by the dozen. There’ll be dozens more when he sends Matthew McConaughey to the other side of the universe. Read our review here.
Life Itself (Nov 14th). Despite their invaluable contribution to society, film critics aren’t often internationally loved Pulitzer prize-winners. The late Roger Ebert was. “Life Itself”, a documentary adapted from his autobiography, conveys the humanity, erudition, pointed humour and joie de vivre which some film critics may lack.
The Drop (Nov 14th). Tom Hardy pours the drinks in a Brooklyn “drop bar” where ill-gotten gains are stashed. Scripted by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”), this downbeat gangland drama is a chance to raise a glass to Hardy’s co-star, James Gandolfini, who gives a fine final performance.
The Imitation Game (Nov 14th). This classy biopic can’t quite solve the enigma of Alan Turing, but Benedict Cumberbatch excels as yet another of his buttoned-up, socially inept geniuses, and he gets Best-of-British support from Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear and Mark Strong.
What We Do in the Shadows (Nov 21st). Jemaine Clement, the bespectacled half of Flight of the Conchords, co-writes and stars in the year’s funniest film, a mock-doc about a group of diffident vampires sharing a house in New Zealand. It’s the “Spinal Tap” of horror movies.
Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec 26th). Ridley Scott breaks out the swords and sandals again, which might just mean a return to “Gladiator” form. Moses and Rhamses are played by the controversially un-Egyptian Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton. ~ nb

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