Film Review: Winter Sleep

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the best directors working in cinema today. Ceylan seems to improve with almost every film and there’s no one who makes more visually arresting and powerful fables. Since his debut Kasaba, every film he’s made has notched-up a succession of awards. The Turkish director’s last two films (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and Three Monkeys) bagged him the Grand Jury Prize and Best Director at Cannes respectively. With Winter Sleep he’s gone one better, winning the Palme d’Or at this year’s festival.

Mr. Aydın (Haluk Bilginer) is a retired actor who runs a hotel atop of the Anatolian Steppe. Living with his younger wife Nihal (Melisa Sözen) and his divorced sister Necla (Demet Akbag), Mr. Aydın’s adopted his father’s role as the major landowner in the area, as well as having myriad business interests. Viewing himself as a magnanimous benevolent ruler, he imparts wisdom to the local area via his column in the local newspaper – Voice of the Steppe. When the young son of one of his tenants throws a stone at his car it starts a chain of events which shake his empire.

Winter Sleep is quite simply an intricate work of profound beauty. Visually, it’s stunning (if you get the chance, definitely see it in a cinema). Winter Sleep is not brief, but whilst it comes in at well over three hours, it never feels long or drawn-out. Even in the quietest moments there’s always plenty going on in the background. Ceylan channels Chekhov through Bergman and Shakespeare in this thoughtful meditation about a man who believes himself to be a well-loved king, when in fact he’s despised by everyone. Whilst Bilginer delivers an assured performance, it’s Sözen who shines as his unhappy wife who finds herself trapped.

Winter Sleep is out in cinemas on Friday.

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