Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kış Uykusu (Winter Sleep) (2014)

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Writers:  Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan
Cast:       Haluk Bilginer, Meliza Sozen, Demet Akbag
Language: Turkish

Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities...

Fuck me, that was an intense watch! Even though Aydin is only an actor by trade, he carries himself like an intellectual writing essays for the local newspaper on diverse range of topics. The name Aydin in Turkish means intellectual. He has got a sidekick, Hidayet, to take care of his hotel business as well as collecting rents from his tenants. Nihal is sort of a trophy wife for him and she spends her time organizing philanthropic activities. According to her, Aydin is a selfish and cynical hypocrite.Necla is a slacker kind of person who is of the opinion that hard thinking is an activity in itself. When she complains about getting bored in rural Anatolia, Aydin quips that boredom is a luxury. I can relate a lot to the siblings in the film and Nihal is the sort of person whom I despise. I have almost always found charity to be a selfish act that people indulge in to feel better about themselves and that is exactly what Nihal is doing. All three characters at various points in the film get brutally honest about each other and these are played out in a set-piece fashion with long verbal back and forth. Film is about 195 minutes long but the original cut ran for 270 minutes. 

I am a big fan of Nuri Bilge Ceylan and his earlier works had much in common with Michelangelo Antonioni's films. His last film 'Once upon a time in Anatolia' was a departure from that but with Winter Sleep he is coming back to familiar territory. That said this film is a bit dialog heavy whereas Antonioni relied more on gestures than speech. Ceylan's 'Climates' also dealt with marital crisis and Winter Sleep could be seen as a progression from there. It also featured some scenes from winter Anatolia. Overall it is a great watch despite the run time of more than three hours.  Each frame is picture perfect and interior scenes with kindling fire and lights are exquisitely done. In the closing credits there was a dedication to Anton Chekhov, whose work inspired Ceylan for making this film. Haluk Bilginer expertly plays the character of Aydin whom unravels over the course of the film. The power relation between him and his wife is not too dissimilar from the one between him and his tenants.  I was also reminded of Richard Linklater's 'Before Midnight' while watching this. 

Winter Sleep won Palme d'Or at Cannes but was excluded by the Academy awards from its final five in the foreign films category. Similarity in theme with last year's winner 'La grande belleza' might have worked against it. No genuine film fans should give a fuck about Oscars anyway. It will certainly be up there in my top films from 2014, but Boyhood still occupies the top spot. Yet to watch 'Leviathan' and 'Birdman'.

Rating: 5/5