Winter Sleep

| November 28, 2014 | Comments (0)

Still from Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest Cannes contender

DIR: Nuri Bilge Ceylan • WRI: Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan  PRO: Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan • DOP: Gökhan Tiryaki • ED: Nuri Bilge Ceylan  Bora Göksingöl  •DES: Gary Williamson • CAST: Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sözen, Demet Akbag

Nestled in the awe-inspiring steppe region of Anatolia, Turkey lies a mountaintop hotel built upon rock, mortar and mud, a quaint setting for a war of attrition between the classes, one’s family and oneself in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s overwrought but hypnotic Palme d’Or winning magnum opus.

 

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a speck of black against the vast semi-arid landscape. Introduced bent over and brooding, he appears at home amongst the rock – it’s tough, weathered and immovable; he’s proud, jaded and stubborn. Once a budding actor destined for stardom, now a journalist, landlord and hotelier, he’ll forever and always be his father’s son, a softer simpler man as his inherited tenants often regale.

 

During a ride along rent-run with his lap dog manager Hidayet (Ayberk Pekcan) their car is struck by a rock smashing Aydin’s passenger window. The culprit, a young boy, is accosted and driven back home to be shamed in front of his elders only to reveal his father is just as temperamental and for good reason. They are Aydin’s tenants recently sieged upon by debt collectors but he doesn’t even know it, he never deals the dirty work, it’s all just a nuisance keeping him from writing his next humanitarian article. The steely-eyed showdown nearly crescendos on a fist fight but Aydin remains a silent witness throughout – perhaps it’s his father’s legacy weighing him down to the ground.

 

“Repentance is penance.” Back home, the inconvenience is deconstructed past simple truths and beyond all meaning as ruminating issues into submission is a favourite past time throughout the film. In this manner, Aydin can profess to caring when in actuality he’s just tearing down the guilt into disparate parts that can be more easily swept under the carpet. Alternatively, one issue can be replaced by another and so he swiftly seeks council with older sister Necla (Demet Akbag) and his young philanthropist wife Nihal (Melissa Sözen) when an avid reader reaches out to him in writing seeking charity. The parade of opinions, however, merely delays the inevitable rinse-and-repeat exercise of absolving any and all responsibility but the push and pull interplay sets up the player dynamics wonderfully.

 

“Acting is all about honesty.” Aydin relishes his power and influence, as a businessman and as a writer but greed always leaves you wanting more. He views himself as a sort of modern-age Imam, a spiritual adviser in print that professes fidelity but processes pompous hypocritical columns instead. Bilginer embodies the bundle of contradictions expertly causing you to cringe at times but never look away. Sister Necla, who is is going through divorce proceedings, is as tough as nails, a constant couch-surfer drinking tea and scoffing baklava in the background, performing as both the devil and an angel (when it suits her) over baby brother’s shoulders as he struggles to pontificate, his biggest fan and critic all in one. Watching them bicker and bear-bait one another is both a pleasure and a punishment at times, a healthy amount of sibling rivalry is engaging but when all hell breaks loose you do wish you could just awkwardly shuffle away as in real life.

 

Evergreen, by comparison, are the tirades between Aydin and his young and beautiful wife Nihal, her contempt a constant reminder of how old fashioned and cut-off from the world he really is. One powerhouse of a scene reveals she hasn’t been a trophy all these years but a target, someone close to home Aydin can control and condescend. They pick at one another like crows but when Aydin sticks a beak and then a talon in Nihal’s affairs, it’s all-out war. Sözen plays the beauty and the beast with an icy resolve that’s warming at times considering the climate of characters on show.

 

“The road to hell is paved in good intentions.” The film succeeds on many fronts but some of the extended sequences that make up the 3hr16mins running time are extremely laborious, repetitive and nebulous affairs. Real time is such but film time should be economic, we’re dealing with characters that can’t deal with themselves who orbit around their issues (dizzyingly so) but rarely touch down, it’s a novelistic technique that should’ve remained a theme alone. Also there are a few interesting side-story threads, such as the motocross riding guest at the hotel (who’s get-up-and-go attitude Adyin is quite obviously envious of) and especially the acquisition and breaking-in of a wild horse that could have bookended the narrative a good hour earlier.

 

It’s been compared to the work of a myriad of Great Russian writers and certainly the scope is far reaching but with this being a visual medium you might be dismayed if you’re seeking the kaleidoscopic. It’s dark and dreary business and the running time is quite the investment but the return is an enthralling tale nonetheless.

Anthony Assad

 

196 minutes

Winter Sleep is released 21st November 2014

Winter Sleep – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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