NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2011--ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA Send This Review to a Friend
The first section of this Turkish import is annoyingly slow and one may lose patience. Don’t.
After a bit more than a half hour the film, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, beings to take shape, and by the time the 157 minutes running time has passed, we will have watched a strange tale involving a crime that is but a way station in painting the portraits of a three interesting main characters.
Director of photography Gokhan Tiryaki captures the lonely country landscape at night as a group of cars moves along. We soon learn of the mission. There has been a murder and the authorities, with a confessed killer in tow, expect him to lead them to where the body is buried. But amusingly, the landscape is so similar that the effort is at first fruitless, and the frustration already starts the humor rolling.
When the right grave is finally found and the victim discovered hog-tied, the whimsy sets in further, as there are statements expressing shock that someone could be tied up this way. But alas, the dead man when untied can’t fit into the trunk of a car. Now he must be hog-tied again.
The film takes form with a dry, sardonic approach, all the while giving us more and more of a character study involving Taner Birsel as Prosecutor Nusret, Muhammet Uzuner as Doctor Cernal and Yilmaz Erdogan as Commisar Naci. The characters show their human side, secrets come out, as do self-doubts, and the action reflects conditions in Turkey as well.
The screenplay was written by director Ceylan with Ebru Ceylan and Ecran Kesal. Undoubtedly it could use some trimming, but the film is unusual enough to make having some patience worthwhile. A Cinema Guild release.