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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