ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA
Nuri Bilge Ceylan is the only Turkish film director whose films are shown to a wider world, and this, his latest, lives up to the high standards he has consistently achieved.
The film runs for over two and a half hours and if ever there was a film about which you could truthfully say, 'nothing much happens', this is it. But I was hooked for the whole time. It's hard to say why, and maybe even harder to explain why it's worth your while going to see it, but I shall try.
A small convoy of 2 cars and an army jeep crawls along a country track in the middle of the night. There is a police chief, a prosecutor and a doctor, as well as two men accused of murder, who are – supposedly – trying to help find where the body is buried. But each site they visit turns out, one way or another, to be the wrong one. And so they meander on, bickering, telling stories, and passing the time as best they can. If you were feeling pretentious, you could say it was a metaphor for life, but Ceylan is not given to pretension. His films are grounded in the everyday, the ordinary, the real. Because of course, paradoxically, nothing happening is actually everything happening, just as in a Transformers movie, where everything appears to be happening, nothing is happening.
There isn't anywhere to go, because we're there already, even though there is a sense of a journey being made – the shallow grave at the end of all their searching. But even that is not the end, as the minutiae of a report, the disposal of the body and the autopsy unfold in what feels like real time. We never know who was killed or why, but that isn't really the point. The point is the nature of existence, the purpose and meaning of life. If that sounds pretentious, so be it, but for me, all cinema is about purpose and meaning, whether it's Groundhog Day or this. And Ceylan can capture the fragments that make up life as skilfully and subtly as any director working today.
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