Sunday, February 01, 2015

"Winter Sleep" is a scenic morality drama with an elderly patriarch with the "rich young ruler" problem

Winter Sleep” (“Kis uykusu”) is a 196-minute morality play from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, among stunning late fall scenery in Cappadocia Plateau area of Anatolia central Turkey.   And, except when it goes outdoors for spectacular views, it comes across as a stage play.
Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a retired “thespian” who now owns a cute hotel, the Othello, built into caves and cliffs of the plateau, with individual rooms looking like huts out of Middle Earth.  He enjoys blogging and writing for a small local newspaper, and his divorced sister (Demet Akbag) wonders what is the point of his writing if it doesn’t sell big.   He wants to write a book on Turkish theater.  He has a younger wife, Nihal, Melissa Sozen, who longs for him to be more real and leave her more freedom.  As a devout but politically moderate and tolerant Muslim, he is somewhat smug about his righteousness. He almost reminds one of the “rich young ruler” in the Christian New Testament, except that he is old.  The youth of his wife gives away his fatal character flaw:  he wouldn’t find a partner his own age perfect enough to be sexually attractive.
One of his blog or local newspaper readers asks him to help with a specific children’s charity, because of his “connections”.  That is true, if you make yourself famous, people will try to get you to pimp their specific causes.  He actually is more sympathetic to this one than his wife is, but an hour later in the film comes the critical showdown with Nihal:  she wants to be left to run her charity the way she sees fit, and he gets after her about sloppy record keeping, that could get her into legal trouble.  This leads to a long monologue from Nihal about how he is so pious he doesn’t find real people worthy of any attention.  (That’s in the trailers.)  She mentions the dichotomy between “believers” and “non-believers” with some effect. His behavior pattern could be described as schizoid. 

Aydin would go Istanbul for the winter to get away from the personal pressure, but a new kind of kindness takes over has he visits some of his tenants in villages in the plateau.  That’s were a lot of the scenery is.  There’s a 35-year-old tenant who hasn’t married because he is preoccupied with looking after his nephew and the rest of his ancestral family after his brother got into a fight and wound up in jail, and became unemployable.  That’s how family responsibility works in these cultures.  Earlier in the film, that particular character has told part of the story before, when the little boy collapses, and the film suddenly shifts to wild horse herding, a most bizarre sequence.  Before the apotheosis, Aydin is suddenly so struck by his lack of empathy that he suddenly vomits and makes a mess in his tenant’s hut.
The film has many long conversations, apparently shot in single takes.   It is rather like a director’s cut.

The official site is here. The US distributor is Adopt Films, but many other companies are involved, including “NBC Films”, MARS (France), and Memento (which sounds like Newmarket Films). 
I saw the film at the Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax before a fair audience on Super Sunday afternoon.

The music uses the F# minor slow movement from one of Schubert's last piano sonatas (the big B-fat sonata). 
The film has no connection to the bizarre 1997 German mystery film “Winter Sleepers” (or “Hibernators”) by Tom Tykwer (which I did see while living in Minneapolis).

For a nice little short film, try (on the YouTube  Train Channel, I think on a new CD) “Bulletproof Picasso” with Reid Ewing and Emily Kinney, here,   In the story, an old creep in a diner gives into an impulse, and the sequel leads to a romance reminding me of "Zabriske Point" (Nov. 29, 2011).  Besides the song, it has a grand look that belongs on a big screen as a short, maybe a preshow (or maybe in next year’s DC Shorts). Sassy story, with a desert shot that reminds me of the remains near the UFO colony that Dan Fry had near Tonopah AZ in the 1970s.  I wonder it it is the same place. 

First Picture:  "Cappadocia Chimneys Wikimedia Commons" by Benh LIEU SONG -"Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons", with attribution link.  

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