Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) movie poster

director Nuri Bilge Ceylan
viewed: 11/15/2012

The film opens on a landscape very much like the one in the poster above, dimming twilight, miles of nowhere.  Three cars stop, men get out, one handcuffed.  Is this the mafia about to execute someone?

It turns out that these are the police and the handcuffed man is a murder suspect, trying to lead the posse to the location of the buried body of his victim.  The landscape of rolling hills and plains becomes more and more difficult to distinguish as night comes on.  But the men keep searching.  Who was murdered, why the person was murdered, how he was murdered all comes slowly, very slowly forth.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film moves at a measured, unhurried pace.  The nighttime landscapes of the Turkish countryside evoke the mystery at hand.  The unknown.  The picture that slowly unveils is not so much a vantage on the country or the people, but a sliver of a sense of the people and the place, the outskirts of the city of Keskin, a district of the Kırıkkale Province.  Ceylan isn’t giving a definitive viewpoint, but a personalized one, centered around the doctor who will perform the autopsy played by Muhammet Uzuner.  The story is based on some real life events, but even the perspective is slow to come into focus.

It’s a very good movie, in my opinion.  Though slow-going, it’s evocative and oddly fascinating.  The performances are largely naturalistic.  There is an open-endedness to the whole, where meaning is left for interpretation, which when done well, can be very thought-provoking.  Really, quite a good film.

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