Three Monkeys (2008) ****

October 29th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Cast: Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan, Ahmet Rifat Sungar, Ercan Kesal | Thriller, Turkey 109′

Three Monkeys is a visual metaphor for anxiety and suspicion, a moody reflection on family guilt after a tragedy under the glowering skies of Istanbul. Three Monkeys is a masterpiece in stylish visual storytelling. Writing with his wife Ebru, Ceylan keeps his plot and narrative ambiguous to focus on an atmosphere seething with angst ridden doubt. His characters make spurious assumptions that eventually lead to their undoing.

The plot is brilliantly simple yet loaded with potential for emotional meltdown: under a cloud of dismay and financial hardship, Eyup and Hacer live in a modest flat overlooking the Bosphorus with their aimless son Ismail, whose brother has recently died. One dark night Eyup’s politically ambitious boss Servet hits a pedestrian on a lonely road. Eyup agrees to take the rap – a short stay in prison – for a chunk of money that will repay a debt he owes his father. While Eyup is away, the feckless Ismail buys a car with part of the money to secure a job as a driving instructor. Hacer then falls for Servet who decides to repay Eyup in full, including the amount Ismail has spent on the car. But Eyup regards his largesse with suspicion and soon puts two and two together.

The sheer intensity of Three Monkeys is captivating – keeping us in thrall as the four main characters gradually unravel in a way that is rare in modern cinema, invigorated by Gokhan Tiryaki’s vibrant images and stunning performances from Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan and Ahmet Sungar whose facial expressions convey all we need to know and more. A simple tragedy leads to a constantly changing dynamic between the central characters who are poisoned by a self-seeking outsider. Pure cinematic joy that deservedly won Ceylan Best Director at Cannes 2008. MT



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