Winter Sleep (2014)


Kiş Uykusu

Turkey; Nuri Bilge Ceylan

All Audiences

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a retired actor, runs a family hotel in central Anatolia’s remote plains with his young wife Nihal (Melisa Sözen) and divorced sister Necla (Demet Akbag). As the landlord of a small number of properties he rents out for profit, Aydin clashes with one of his tenants, an alcoholic and proud ex-convict unable to find a job and secure the payment of his charges. The situation escalated when the young boy of the residents smashes with a rock the window of Aydin’s truck. Prompted by this incident and his family to face reality, Aydin sees his Fools’ Paradise crumble, but also the contrived equilibrium of his household succumb to pent-up grievances, latent resentments and truths kept hidden for too long.

Since the late 90s with Kasaba, screened at the Berlin and Tokyo International Film Festivals, Nuri Bilge Ceylan was a discreet but deep-rooted figure of arthouse cinema, one who – for the western audiences at least – almost single-handedly embodies the renewal of intellectual Turkish filmmaking. But beyond the borders of the arthouse ghetto, his name is hardly familiar to the casual cinemagoer. Winter Sleep, a slow-burning three hours endeavor, will not appeal to everyone, but genuine cinema aficionados are in for a treat.

The language of this new film differs slightly from Ceylan’s previous efforts. The stark minimalism is diluted by an unexpected, irrepressible energy and bursts of poetry, albeit the bleak undertows never truly subside. Aydin’s silent seism is captured in long takes and static shots, but has a theatrical, Shakespearean dimension that is, maybe paradoxically, not incompatible with the director’s severely realistic aesthetic approach. Our lives are not always made of brooding glances and heavy silences. Ever since man invented language, we waded in its treacherous waters, trying to justify, explain, and redeem ourselves. Ceylan loves words – awkward, infirm and desperate words – and films their flow with a febricity that instantly gets our hearts beating faster. Aydin’s three embittered verbal battles are the film’s pivotal moments, and by far its best.  In swift and energetic  strokes, the portrait of a disillusioned, broken but fiercely proud man emerges.

In the texture of this fascinating, unpeeling character study is interwoven a moral reflection on our own lies and artifices, yet humming with humanity, warmth and compassion. Winter Sleep is a brutally honest film about us, but, though it goes to some very dark places, proves once and for all that humanity is worth all this bother…

Winter    Winter sleep


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