Winter Sleep, the 2014 Cannes Film Festival winner.

Winter Sleep.

Winter Sleep.

Turkish film maker Nuri Bilge Ceylan made his international breakthrough with the powerful Once Upon A Time in Anatolia in 2011, reviewed earlier here. It won the Grand Prix, the runner up prize at Cannes that year, and his latest went one better, winning the Palme d’Or there last year.

As with Once Upon A Time, Winter Sleep was inspired by the short stories of Chekhov, and is in fact loosely based on two of them. But it doesn’t feel as obviously Chekhovian as the earlier film. Rather, it is the spirit of Ingmar Bergman that permeates his latest outing.

Bergman’s favourite film from his own body of work, not merely the one he was least dissatisfied with, but one of the few that he actually liked, was Winter Light. And it’s not hard to see what appealed to him about it. It’s his most unremittingly bleak film. And the only one of his mature films that he doesn’t saddle with a brief and unconvincing coda that tries to suggest some sense of reconciliation.

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

Indeed, the up-beat beat that Wild Strawberries, Autumn Sonata and most glaringly Through A Glass Darkly end with are so fleeting and out of character, that you wonder whether you really saw them there.

Ceylan claims that his film is in no way inspired by Bergman. But given its subject matter mood and title, he clearly doth protesteth too much. You can see why he might. Who wants to be compared to Bergman? He needn’t have worried though. Winter Sleep comfortably justifies such lofty praise.

Winter Sleep.

Winter Sleep.

At the core of this intense, intimate and unforgiving character study are two quiet if monumental arguments. Aydin, a former actor, is now the owner of the only hotel in an isolated village in rural Turkey, making him the one fish in a non-existent pond. In the first of these rows he is confronted by his sister, who is living there with him having separated from her husband.

And in the second, he and his younger wife clash in a monumental show down that has clearly been building for months.

Melisa Sozen in Winter Sleep.

Melisa Sozen as the long suffering wife in Winter Sleep.

The stifling sense of suffocating claustrophobia, and the strong feeling that you are witnessing a family row that you really shouldn’t have heard any of are quintessentially Bergmanesque. But in contrast to some of Bergman’s, Ceylan’s images are as meticulously constructed as his characters are complex. And as with Once Upon A Time, the film comfortably justifies the three hours it unfolds over.

In short, another major film from one of the few serous film makers working today. You can see the trailer to Winter Sleep here.

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