Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
- Director:Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Cast:Taner Birsel, Yilmaz Erdogan, Muhammet Uzuner
- Release Date:May 17, 2012
- Running time:150 minutes
- Film Worth:$15.00
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A deft, slow-burning character study, which is beautifully shot, perfectly performed and only let down by a slightly lagging third act.
The Turkish Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a slow-burning, unconventional character study, owing more to the tales of desperation by theatrical masters Samuel Beckett and Eugene O'Neill than traditional genre storytelling, despite the title's allusions to Sergio Leone or other Spaghetti westerns.
For the first two acts, co-writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's film is beautifully written and finely directed, a testament to his high ambitions as a storyteller and intelligent execution as a skilled filmmaker. In the film, a group of men, including a lawyer (Taner Birsel), a police officer (Yılmaz Erdoğan) and a doctor (Muhammet Uzuner), search for the dead body of a murder victim in the Anatolian countryside.
The writing is beautiful, poetic and unsentimental. Simultaneously theatrical and naturalistic, the writing contrasts the physical barriers of the environment (including rain, poor lighting, a blackout) with their emotional insecurities. In their great physical journey, the characters revert to soliloquies about masculinity, violence and trust, unconsciously revealing their own anxieties and fears. Whilst these writing choices may sound arch or pretentious when articulated by a college student, the characters carry a sense of experience that gives these scenes an emotional weight and spirituality.
The film is also beautifully directed. Choreographed with stark minimalism, the film favours elegantly mounted dollies, serene long shots and unconventional framing choices (including over-the-shoulder shots during the monologues) to articulate the film's sombre mood and reflective tone. Ceylan also gets top performances from all of his cast, with Uzuner carrying the film with an intelligence and reality.
If the film is problematic, it's in the ending. Whilst true to the film's set-up, the ending takes too long revealing the reversals we have already surmised, resulting in a flabby third act that - whilst not spoiling the film - does it no favours, either.