Posted March 12, 2012 by Ben Winkley in Films
 
 

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia


In one of a convoy of cars traveling through the Turkish night, policemen, a prosecutor and a doctor accompany two hung-over murder

In one of a convoy of cars traveling through the Turkish night,
policemen, a prosecutor and a doctor accompany two hung-over murder suspects as
they try to remember where their victim is buried.
There are several false leads and a stop in a remote village before the
corpse is found in the first light of morning.

That’s not to give anything away. The victim’s fate and the events leading up
to it are revisited, so when a half-buried dead man attracting a dog’s
attention turns up in a hillside field, it seems like the most natural thing.

But the dog-bothered corpse isn’t the first thing that gets exhumed – as the
night stretches on, the protagonists’ neuroses and tics are also uncovered for
dissection.

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Once
Upon A Time In Anatolia is a meditation on men and power in the manner of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and like that
film, unfolds languorously, making demands of the observer. Long, half-lit
scenes seem to reveal little; but like the chaps at The Circus, every mannerism
counts, each man’s actions are considered with reference to the others, whether
it’s Muhammet Uzuner’s decent
doctor, Yilmaz Erdogan’s neurotic
police chief and Taner Birsal’s
detached prosecutor, whose fantastic resemblance to Clark Gable doesn’t go
unspoken. Between them, shared secrets, unease and dark places they’re trying
to avoid. But the night makes everything dark.

Looming out of the shadows behind them, a rich, seldom seen land, photographed
(by Gokhan Tiryaki) with a dreamy,
five-in-the-morning eye. The half-light of a Turkish night, illuminated
sporadically by car headlights, the moon and the occasional lightning flash;
it’s sometimes sepia, others monochrome.

And it shows a vast, poor land. In the village, bread is broken by
paraffin-light; doors bang in the wind and reality wavers in and out of focus
amid the fatigue of the overnight searching. Talk turns uncertainly to the
future.

Anatolia is closer to Syria than to Switzerland and while Turkey may look
toward Europe it looks like the Middle East. Here, hints of the upheaval ahead:
a region pulled two ways, wavering, the choices and the consequences not yet
reconciled.

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is philosophical about this, rather than
phlegmatic. It’s proud also of this way of life, without being fervent. It’s
civilised, intelligent fare that rewards the patient viewer.


Ben Winkley