Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

Final Thoughts

Intricately made of endlessly long shots and beautiful vistas, this film will make viewer contemplate the motives of heroes in every single way.

Overall Score 4.5
Readers Rating
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Once in a while universe brings a bright idea to a random director to make a movie that essentially pushes viewers into random thought process. This process is surprisingly unrelated to the film’s topic. In this case film is a catalyst – it comes and leaves, forcing an individual to think and analyze his own problems. Not in the sense of “what would I do in the heroes shoes”, but in the sense of “what would I do in MY shoes?”.

3 pairs of car lights cut through darkness of inner Turkey – Anatolia. They stop at seemingly random location, several men jump out of the cars and lean into darkness. One of them is handcuffed. He insists he buried the body near “the tree that looks like a ball”. That and there was a field to the left of the stream. He was drunk. He can’t remember any more. Police officials insist on looking for the next location claiming “they already came so far”. The company gathers and move to the next one. Unfortunately, it seems there’s infinite amount of locales identical to the suspects description. And the whole company – (we learn) consisting of inspector, prosecutor, his assistant, doctor, gendarmes, drivers, and couple of gravediggers – all are forced to move to a new location with the hope to find the body and end this long night. In the process, which is routine to the said officials, they discuss a number of topics unrelated to the case. In fact, probably the last thing they are interested in are the details of the murder. For them its another restless, windy night. Another dog howling at the Moon. Another call from frustrated wife. Another reason not to go home to the nightmares of guilt. Another way to complain about management. And for some its just a way to observe others. And all they look for is the end of The night.

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the film becomes a surrealistic never ending dream for its heroes. Extremely long shots, wide lenses, very slow zooms and pans. I don’t if Ceylan had this in mind, but he managed to recreate Andrei Tarkovskiy, without actually copying the master. And in contrast to Tarkovskiy, he managed to spice seemingly boring and depressing film with some funny (witty funny, NOT stupid funny) moments, that gives an extra life to the film.

The exhaustion of all the members of the group leads to shocking revelations of true faces and forces genuine emotions to the surface. No character will leave that night without being completely analyzed under the microscope. And every single one has a proper story, proper development, and proper face. Even the ones who don’t even open their mouths or appear just for a 10 seconds on the screen leave a distinct footprint in our minds – we know who they are, we know what they do, and why they do.

Ensemble cast of the movie is just incredible. I specifically enjoyed straight-faced inspector (played by Yilmaz Erdogan) who has seen a thousand of jobs like this and still manages to keep his sanity. I don’t want to go into details, doing so will only spoil the movie.

I enjoyed the experience a lot. As I mentioned above, the movie left me with ton of questions about my own life. Probably the only thing I didn’t like about the film was the ending. I think at some point Ceylan decided to tie some loose ends, which I prefer he didn’t. I loved the atmosphere he created throughout the film and was actually disappointed that he decided to go forward from it.

I know, probably half of you won’t watch this movie. And out of that half, half won’t even like it. But, this is what I feel art cinema should be like. Its not for everyone. And although I am not a big fan of art cinema – I suppose most of the films told to be one are just pseudo-art cinema – “Once upon a time in Anatolia” is as genuine as art cinema can be.