Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Written by Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Anton Chekhov (short stories)
Starring: Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sözen, Demet Akbag, Serhat Mustafa Kiliç, Nejat Isler
At over three hours, I was very surprised at the speed which this passed by. This isn’t just thanks to the incredible photography and landscapes, but also the dialogue which was consistently intriguing while essentially going nowhere, much like the characters inhabiting the small village.
This is a movie without a plot, rather it is a multiple character/relationship study, with some humour littered about as the lead character seems to be one of those people who revels in others’ mistakes. however minor, and enjoys pointing them out, as he is always right. His and his friends’ interactions with the rest of the cast are somehow captivating, it is action through dialogue. Whether meaningless talk that define the characters, or more philosophical conversations that bring to mind Russian extensionalist writings, it is the dialogue and the character studies that make up the action. Not a movie for everyone then, I feel I say that a lot but a three-plus hour Turkish film is probably not most folks’ cuppa tea. Especially when the conversations get heated – it’s a lot to ask to read all the subtitles and know who is saying what. But the movie paints each character so well that for the most part, I could tell who was saying what through their attitude and manner of speaking.
I enjoyed this immensely, and having never heard of the director Ceylan, I am keen to check out his filmography as soon as possible. Deserving of its Palme d’Or without a doubt, as their isn’t a moment where either we see long takes of the incredible cave-like village/hotel and the surrounding areas, all of which look absolutely stunning, or again carefully photographed indoor scenes that again somehow provide for entertaining dialogue despite there being little in the way of narrative. This also rivals Under The Skin, TGBH, Force Majuere and Interstellar for the visual spectacle it provides.
I read many comparisons to Bergmann’s work, and while this is somewhat true, much like the same comparisons with Force Majuere, they aren’t quite accurate. Both study the human condition in its true form: flawed personalities and the results of these. However Bergmann for the most part had one central character that was the obvious subject of study, and their flaws were often much more psychologically troubling and dark in atmosphere. This however is a study of an entire village, a metaphor perhaps for the various flaws and vices that make up humanity in our society today, as the lives aren’t easy for those living there.
One could fault the running time, as there is no question that in three hours, one would have expected more significant events to occur. I do think that this element should have been explored further, but the simply amazing cinematography, by one Gökhan Tiryaki , and the strangely consistently interesting conversations were by far enough to overlook this. The script was extremely well written, and each conversation revealed more layers of each character’s personality. There is no narrative, no plot, but the study of a small community and the secrets and unhappiness that hovers over most living there is quite masterfully done.
This is certainly a new experience for me, as I haven’t quite seen a movie with such an obvious lack of a narrative, but yet it managed to intrigue, entertain and make me laugh. The ending at first seemed abrupt, but in hindsight it made perfect sense. An ideal ending for an extremely interesting multiple-character study that slowly reveals layers of each character. Some are likable, many aren’t, yet their character’s gradual progression as people was nice to see. It did remind of Bergmann, but in a much less dark and more subtle way. Not to mention this film follows the lives of multiple characters, all whom belong in a hierarchy of sorts, as one owns the hotel, others rent and are subsequently lower, and for the most part are treated as so. A significant event near the end of the movie signifies an actual plot device, and in hindsight I think can see why it happened. I need to see it again.
This is an ambiguous film, it leaves a lot to your imagination, and you’re enjoyment of it really depends on the limit of your imagination. If it enjoys sprinting the 100 metre dash in under nine seconds then you will see this film and then want to see it again immediately. If your imagination is slower than a sloth doped up on endone, this perhaps isn’t a film for you. But if you use your head, and follow the conversations littered throughout the run-time, you will find yourself intrigued at the many subtleties of the film that are executed with perfection. A good eye is required, and a certain understanding of humanity and personality traits doesn’t hurt.
Another gem to end the year, 2014 has been filled with amazing movies and the pace does not seem to be letting up. It is extremely encouraging to see not only improved quality from the US, but also many British movies and non-English films that say a lot more than you might think. I feel different cultures approach filmmaking in their own unique way. This is certainly a unique movie, and as it progressed I felt like I was learning simple things about the culture of the characters – a high number of muslims, a subject lightly touched on.
4.5/5 – Strong in every facet but narrative/plot, but considering the goals of the movie and what it sets out to do, this absence feels right. It reflects the fates of most of the characters well as a general metaphor for where we are as humans today: rather lost and aimless in our wanderings.
written by the epilepticmoondancer