Thursday, January 19, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) - Ceylan
As the title suggests, Ceylan's new film unfolds like a good book. What seems a police procedural on the surface, Anatolia is a deeply felt human drama that is rich and nuanced as any great Russian novel. The story begins at a crime scene (or rather, on the road searching for one) and ends at a morgue. But in between those places for two and a half hours, you are constantly on the winding, hilly dirt roads with policemen, a confessed killer, a country doctor, diggers, transcriber with a laptop and a Clark Gable-ish prosecutor. As they move from one place to another in the night (because the confessed man doesn't remember the exact location), they converse and lament about their lives. Thanks to the scarce electricity in the small village and only car headlights beaming the much of the action on the road, Anatolia is visually striking in its widesceen format and has many images that linger for days after viewing. The distant thunder and lightening tells the rain is on the way. One character laments, "That hasn't changed for thousands of years, but 100 years from now, who will remember us?" But Anatolia is filled with memorable, deep characters drawn beautifully by its multiple character interactions and leisurely running time.

Anatolia completely avoids clichés of the usual crime drama. Although police incompetency and provincialism are not the main attractions at all, it has a lot of self-deprecating humor and constantly very funny under the given grim circumstances. Only thing that I saw coming from a mile away (not that I'm complaining) was the appearance of the beautiful village mayor's daughter. Only a few female characters appear in the film. Granted all the Turkish girls are beautiful, but the glimpse of this stunning beauty under the kerosine lamp (for everyone to see, as she serves tea to each characters) and them commenting on her beauty was a little too predictable. With quiet but touching revelations, some even only to the audience, it's a very rewarding film.

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