Latest Review – Winter Sleep [Kış Uykusu] [LFF] [Journey Strand] [Gala]

Winter Sleep [Kış Uykusu]

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Studio: NBC Film | Bredok Filmproduction | Memento Films Production | Zeynofilm

Distributor: New Wave Films [UK]

Year: 2014

Country: Turkey

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 196 minutes (approx.) (3:15:49)

Certificate: 15

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Image: Colour

Language: Turkish | English




Having twice received the Cannes Film Festival’s second most-prestigious honour, the Grand Prix – first for the contemplative 2002 drama, Uzak, and secondly for 2011’s masterful, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia – celebrated Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan finally marked the culmination of his career to date, deservedly taking home the coveted Palme d’Or at the 67th Cannes Film Festival earlier this year for his mesmerising latest offering, Winter SleepIf viewers were wondering how on Earth Ceylan could possibly top the brilliance of Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, then Winter Sleep most definitely provides the answer.

Unfolding in Ceylan’s trademark slow-burning narrative style and set against the poetically bleak, yet breathtaking backdrop of the Anatolian steppe, Winter Sleep is simultaneously both an intimate epic and meditative chamber piece, distinctly calling to mind the ‘Faith Trilogy‘ works of the great Ingmar Bergman; meticulously constructed, beautifully shot and utterly engrossing, executing its complex and digressive narrative structure to remarkable effect.

Set in a small and rather desolate mountain village, somewhere in rural Anatolia, the film centres around Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), the proprietor of a small mountaintop hotel, and explores the various tensions that arise over the course of one long and uneventful winter off-season, as well as the significant national divide between rich and poor and powerful and powerless. A retired actor and somewhat local celebrity, Aydin sees himself as the region’s kindly ruler, intervening in the business of the citizens below the mountain and generally occupying his spare time writing a pompous column in the local newspaper – all the while toying with the idea of writing a book on the history of Turkish theatre.

Ceylan is a filmmaker who has long proved himself adept at observing and dissecting the male subconscious and spirit. Here he once again displays this skill, gently and honestly stripping away the outer layers of his insular and smugly self-satisfied protagonist and powerfully examining his relationship with fellow villagers and his recently divorced sister Necla (Demet Akbag), as well as a failing marriage with his disdainful younger wife, Nihal (Melisa Sözen), predominately through a series of lengthy and deeply intelligent conversational set-pieces.

Ceylan often channels influential literary figures in his films and where Once Upon a Time in Anatolia took its inspiration from the works of Dostoyevsky, Winter Sleep instead finds its literary analogue in the works of Anton Chekhov, widely celebrated as one of the greatest dramatists and short story writers in all literature. With that in mind, it is understandable then that the film plays out very much like a staged piece of theatre. Intimate and absorbing in its approach, it again clearly echoes the almost claustrophobic tone of Bergman’s chamber dramas, with the two masterfully composed, 30-minute+ duologues set very much in the literate, passive-aggressive Chekhovian style.

Though the 196-minute running time will feel like an endurance test for some, Ceylan is careful never to let the pacing drop, nor lose sight of the clear directorial focus. The lengthy duration is used to its full advantage to further explore and uncover the various foibles and plot themes that emerge. The dialogue is precise, each frame looks sublime and the film proves as profound, atmospheric and illuminating an experience as one could hope for.

Performances as expected are pretty much faultless, across the board, and in carrying the film for almost its entire duration, Haluk Bilginer proves himself a sturdy, engaging and highly accomplished leading man.



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