Once Upon a Time in Anatolia by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2011)

Winner of the Grand Prix of the Jury at Cannes 2011.

The film begins at dusk and finishes in the early hours of the morning. It seems to be presented in a real time, adding the power of the length of the night when 3 cars filled with policemen, prosecutor, doctor, gendarmes and two suspects drive around the fields of nothingness in search of a buried corpse.

The two suspects ride in two separate vehicles.

An interesting technical trick is applied to the lighting effects – the cars seem to be equipped with extra powerful lighting which would blind the oncoming cars had there been any in real time. In cinematic terms – they serve as the only source of lighting for wide and long shots and are an excuse for broad lighting in close-ups.

Given the suspects’ memory is not perfect, one was drunk, the other asleep when they were burying the victim, the quest takes for ages (the whole night actually). That being an excuse for conversations of diverse level of topics more and less serious.

It is not easy to establish who the main character is. Oddly it does not seem to be a disturbance. After a while, the audience slowly realises that there is one character present in each scene throughout the film. And he is the one helping other characters to deal with their issues of various sorts, he is the one sane voice amongst the chaotic babble spanning from gossip on the prosecutor’s health to quoting poets on the lightness of human life. He is the one who does not judge and is able to manage his opinions not to show on his face. Something that neither the audience nor the central suspect are capable of doing. The suspect is the audience observing the circus of characters who have power over him.

Amazing cinematic game with powerful poetics and most importantly – a very universal message.

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Filed under 2012 cinema releases, Film Festivals

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