Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Slow paced mystery murder that has multiple layers.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a Turkish director most famous for Distant (Uzak) the depressing tale of two characters one from the city and the other trying to find work. Ceylan directed, wrote and filmed this remarkable film, he used his own props and even his own house for one of the main sets. If you have seen any of his work you can expect a slow paced film.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia takes us on the journey of a group of men and their search for a dead body in the Anatolian steppes.

Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, Once Upon a Time in China, Once Upon a…you get the idea. Just like their titles these films tend to have large running times reaching towards the 3 hour mark. Though I have not seen all the major ones yet, they tend to get largely positives reactions, so much so that the likes of in the west and America are often said to be the best of their respected genres.

For although Anatolia has its similarities, I think its fair to say it’s considerably different, its slow paced film is not only vastly alternative to the previously mentioned films, but to other similarly paced films. To keep an audiences attention is one of the biggest challenges of any film and this is only made harder for Anatolia. I suspect though its unlikely anyone watching this film will be unaware as to what to expect.

To start with Anatolia is beautifully shot (I got to see it in Blu-ray and I urge you if you can do so too) the landscapes of a rugged countryside are easily taken in with long shots to impress the viewer and there are plenty of long shots throughout. Its fair to say some viewers may become impatient but personally it all just adds to the feeling of the film. At times of course I did feel impatient but this is merely just mirroring the impatience felt by the characters as they struggle through the night.

The characters are the biggest positive and indeed rather than the plots search for a dead body the true mystery is the hidden stories behind their strained faces. Firstly Dr Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) starts out as a quiet background character but slowly he is built mainly through conversations with The Prosecutor (Taner Birsel) The murder is used as a way for each character to be explored, the Dr has obviously suffered some sort of loss and it seems he is still grieving. An important theme throughout is that the children are the ones that suffer, in this case a boy is about to lose his father for the crime he has committed. Commissar  Naci (Yilmaz Erdogan) feels this suffering as he has a son with a medical condition, due to his workload his son rarely gets to see him.

On top of this injustice felt by the kids we have innocence (which also resonates from the children, after-all they are innocent) represented by a mayors daughter. Each character speaks of her beauty upon seeing her, she is shy due to her father’s self seeking ways. Its important that we learn nothing of her for she offers the comparison of innocence and guilt that all the men are hiding in the film. This leads to the other important issue of guilt that all the main male characters hide, in fact apart from the innocent daughter and the victims wife we virtually have no female characters most likely due to Anatolian culture’s view on women, but also for me it highlights the innocence.

With superb acting and truly interesting themes if you have the patience Once Upon a Time in Anatolia will offer you mysteries worth unraveling.



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