Today: July 23, 2024

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia DVD

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s expansive drama amongst the pastoral landscape

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s expansive
drama amongst the pastoral landscape of rural Turkey may not sound, on the face
of it, like a film that has that much to shout about.
But like most meditative films that choose to take
their time, long takes of seemingly inert conversations can be as profound and
exhilarating an experience than any sort of hyper-kinetic action thriller. And
boy does Once Upon a Time In Anatolia
take its time.

Like some of its Once Upon a Time predecessors – we
are talking mostly about Leone’s
classic …In the West and …In America as opposed to Robert Rodriguez’s more hard-boiled …In Mexico – Anatolia is a film painted
on a vast cinematic canvas. Initially set around the events of a nighttime
police search – though what exactly they are searching for is, for the moment,
left unexplained – as the night gradually draws on the audience is pulled into
tales of personal woe and seemingly incongruous conversation. On the surface
this may seem quite banal, but Ceylan crafts endless mysteries and intrigue
into the banality of this ongoing investigation. There is something
metaphysical being searched for here amongst the barren Anatolian landscape, as
each character struggles to find meaning or peace within themselves. Answers
only begin to surface when Ceylan decides to move out of the dark and into the

Shot in almost two parts, half at night and half in
the day, cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki
exhibits an extraordinary eye for textures and tones, providing extraordinary
close-ups of faces and expressions that could mean a thousand different things.
Equally, the surroundings are just as encapsulating, evoking Terrence Malick’s picture painting Days of Heaven and Robert Elswit’s breathtaking photography on There Will Be Blood. And although Anatolia has at times a sense of
calm, there is also a brooding and terrifying atmosphere that lies beneath.
Even in the light of day, the evil inside some of us is too disturbing and
incomprehensible to want to think about.

Like Andrew Dominik’s existential masterpiece The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
another impeccably shot film by stalwart Director of Photography Roger Deakins – has something of a
footprint on Anatolia. Apart from the western inspired title, Anatolia shares
the same turmoil and struggles as Brad
’s title character. Just as Dominik’s Jesse James is haunted by the
reality of the crimes he has committed, the mute suspect in Anatolia bears a
similar shame and dishonour for the crime he is responsible for. But is he
covering for someone? Is he really ashamed and remorseful?

Ceylan is not forthcoming with answers,
favouring a feeling of slow-burn and protraction. Anatolia is even in fits a
frustrating experience, but it is not without purpose or aim. Ceylan merely
opens the audience to the frustrations that some of the characters feel. Most
have personal issues of there own that they are preoccupied on resolving, only
the case stands in their way. For most of the film Dotor Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) acts as a wise and
trusted ear to each and everyone’s problems. Like most ancient fables, he is
the small town’s wise and educated man that others come to for answers. In one
of the film’s most moving relationships, the doctor helps the investigation’s
prosecutor come to realise a sad truth that deep down he himself knows.

Though patience is indeed required, the
rewards in Anatolia are many. And despite all of the profound under- tones, the
film is has a wickedly dark sense of humour as the quite farcical police
investigation ensues. It is clear that the police in this part of the world are
very low-tech, but the film avoids, however, the mocking sentiment of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat in favour of something more
endearing in spirit.

Magnetic, compelling and hypnotic, Once
Upon a Time in Anatolia is a film that breaks the mould of the police
procedural in some of the finest and most intriguing ways imaginable, and is as
close as they come to being a masterpiece. One of the best film’s of the year
so far.

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