Films: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia  {Bir zamanlar anadolu'da}

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Bir zamanlar anadolu'da

Turkey, 2011, 157 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Crime, Drama, Medical/Health, Mystery
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Turkish English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Producer: Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan
Screenwriter: Ercan Kesal, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Cinematographer: Gökhan Tiryaki
Principal Cast: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel, Ahmet Mumtaz Taylan

The deliberate pace of Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan's police drama and medical procedural is a far cry from the frantic crash-and-burn of Hollywood's action movies. But this exhaustive meditation on the mysteries of violence, the burdens endured by crime investigators, and, in the end, death itself, pays dividends throughout its 157-minute length. Like the somber family drama Three Monkeys (SDFF31), which earned Ceylan a Best Director nod at Cannes, Anatolia is also absorbed with thorny questions of good versus evil, knowledge versus ignorance, and the urges of personal deception.

In the film's first act, a group of lawmen, a doctor, and a pair of confessed murderers set out in darkness to search the reaches of a treeless steppe for the body of a man killed a few days earlier. Edgy and impatient, the men are engaged in the basic details of life—monotony itself is a major character in Ceylan’s work—but their wide-ranging conversations about family, children, and the uncertain future provide plenty of social texture. Cowritten by Ceylan, his wife Ebru, and Ercan Kesal, the script gives insight into a pervasive Turkish malaise, especially through the pessimism of weary prosecutor Nusret (Taner Birsel) and young doctor Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner). Once the searchers make their way home at sunrise, Ceylan painstakingly depicts the Turkish legal and medical establishments at work, but beneath this quiet surface the humanity of the characters teems. In the examination and looming solution of a single act of violence, Ceylan, a frequent festival guest (Climates, SDFF29; Distant, SDFF25) gives us an almost Dostoevskian view of the human condition, bleak and affecting.

In cooperation with Turkish American Cultural Society of Colorado

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