Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia had an undeniable quiet power. The dark moors of Anatolia acting as just another strong character in a film filled with them. 2014’s Palm D’or winner Winter Sleep really expands on Ceylan’s country as character idea a hundred fold; As we are faced with 196 minutes of it you can take that quite literally. Aydin (a remarkable Haluk Bilginer) is a grouchy pompous stubborn man, facing the long winter ahead in his nearly vacant hotel, built into the Anatolian mountains. His frame of mind and his living quarters perfectly mirrored. A delusional figurehead over-seeing the people in his kingdom.
The unravelling of his marriage to the incredibly beautiful Nihal (Melisa Soezen) is undoubtably the main arching focus but Ceylan channels the great Ingmar Bergman filling the humongous film with the deepest of conversation set pieces; Touching on everything from the divide between the rich and the poor, the self-destructive nature of male pride, and the personification of evil, Aydin’s insufferable holier than thou attitude is front and centre. Each lengthy scene giving him just enough rope to metaphorically hang himself in the minds of an audience. Though there is a twinkle of kindness in the eyes of Aydin it’s all but extinguished when the retired actor, obsessed with the history of and spectacle theatre, balks at his wives honest and charitable nature within a community of people he holds in contempt.
Winter Sleep, despite its daunting runtime is masterfully written and acted. It’s a film which needs to be settled into like cold water but when all is said and done you maybe surprised at how easy it is to watch and how full of subtle ideas it is. The time passes gently, as it must in those long winter months, and Ceylan gradually exploits Aydin’s most unlikable qualities. Though the film presents us with various furious arguments and feuding characters the plot of the film remains rather scantily dressed but that’s not to say the director’s skill is lacking; On the contrary Bilginer and Soezen are expertly led and both deliver wondrous performances. Some of you might feel like Winter Sleep is a long trudge through the cold snow but those of you daring enough to get inside the soul of Aydin might be pleasantly surprised and a little disturbed at how comfortable it is to bare.