Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) **** BFI player

April 22nd, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, DoP: Gokhan Tiryaki | Cast: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel, Ahmet Mumtaz Taylan | 180mins Cert15

Climates, Distance, Three Monkeys. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s films cast a knowing glance over Turkish life with slow-burning plots and a hypnotic style that resonates with the characters and the landscape they inhabit.  Here in Anatolia he feels his way intuitively through a murder mystery road story with no regard for time or stricture, on a long hot night that hangs in the air and in the memory.

There’s a saturnine-looking murderer (Ercan Kesal) but no body, and a series of random events that make this a meandering but enjoyable journey through stunning set pieces and widescreen photography, meeting the locals, with no hurry to solve a crime. The interplay between the main characters; a Columbo-style chief prosecutor (Taner Birsel); a humane police chief (Yilmaz Erdogan) and a slightly seedy doctor (Mohammet Uzuner) is skilful and amusing but the real star is the social commentary that at first seems trivial but grows more relevant and revealing as the night wears on. By dawn things start to fall into place. Keep with it, this is a tale that takes its time but never outstays its welcome. MT ©



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