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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Released 16 March 2012
Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Starring



Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel, Ahmet Mumtaz Taylan, Firat Tanis, Ercan Kesal
Writer(s)

Ebru Caylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ercan Kesal
Producer(s) Zeynep Ozbatur
Origin

Turkey, Bosnia and Herzagovina
Running Time 150 minutes
Genre Crime, drama
Rating TBC
67

Turkish delight.

It is immediately obvious within the opening sequence of Once Upon A Time in Anatolia that director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's first love is photography. Sweeping panoramas of the Anatolian steppes are sensitively intertwined with moody, emotive close-ups of the film's main characters. This is not the Turkey we know from kitschy Kusadasi or the heaving metropolis of Constantinople but a barren country, an eerie landscape stripped bare.

The story of Once Upon A Time in Anatolia follows a group of men-a local prosecutor, a doctor, policemen, drivers, gravediggers and army personnel-who have in their custody two murder suspects, brothers, who claim to have murdered a man and buried him somewhere near a fountain in the open country of central Turkey. From dusk til dawn, the eclectic group drive from place to place hoping to jog the memory of the two men who confessed to having been inebriated the night of the crime.

If the plot seems more than a little distasteful then it is a credit to Ceylan that he has turned a film about a fatal crime and its consequences into something which is both meditative and gently funny. In between sequences of real disquiet with vaguely threatening overtones- courtesy of lingering shots of craggy rocks and driving rain-there is suddenly a prolonged and amusing conversation about yoghurt-a clever and strategic directorial move which successfully alleviates much of the static nature and heaviness of Once Upon A Time in Anatolia. Taner Birsel as Prosecutor Nusret is particularly adept at adopting both the serious manner necessary for a man of his profession and a certain wry humour which provides the audiences with several opportunities to guiltily guffaw out loud. Yet he too is not impermeable to life's dramas and as the film slowly (oh so very slowly) unwinds we get several insights into the ill-effects that certain personal misdeeds in the past have had on his family life. And yet it is perhaps really through quiet and watchful Dr. Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner), our conduit to the events unfolding, that the film's moral element shines through. A somewhat ineffectual observer of proceedings at first, Dr. Cemal slowly emerges as somewhat of a beacon for the moral aspects of Once Upon A Time in Anatolia. His edifying professional chats with Prosecutor Nusret and his measured gestures towards suspect Kenan (Firat Tanis) help to tug the sometimes errant film back down to reality as it were. Dr.Cemal acts as a kind of humanist touchstone amid the haunted landscape.

While for some (like myself) the pace of Once Upon A Time in Anatolia will be maddeningly slow, take heart that after the credits roll you will still be thinking about it for some time to come.

- Louisa McElwee