Winter Sleep (15)

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Picturehouse, Liverpool
5th December - 11th December 2014

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Winter Sleep, set in Turkey's Anatolian steppe, is a compelling watch despite its 196 minute duration.

The featured landscape has an otherworldly quality to it, although the vast portion of the film is set indoors, with people sheltering from the icy weather. It is warm inside but there are nevertheless lots of frosty exchanges between various family participants.

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is the main recipient of withering comments about his attitude and character. He is the landlord of various cottages in a rural backwater, as well as being in charge of a hotel, inherited from his father.

His arrogance and patronising demeanour have led his wife Nihal (Melisa Sozen), who is much younger than Aydin, and his divorced sister Necla (Demet Akbag) to grow increasingly bitter towards him because of their dependency upon him.

Their day-today existence appears monotonous - lounging around, reading and generally with little purpose to their lives. But Aydin, a former actor, preoccupies himself with writing a weekly column about his views on matters he feels passionate about, or thinks he does, as well as preparing to write a book on the history of theatre in Turkey.

Isolation from their own selves, from each other, and from the world outside is the central point of Winter Sleep. It could almost be re-titled Winter Sleepwalking.

Some of the one-to-one conversations/put downs stretch to fifteen minutes at some parts of the film, but they never seem overlong, given the scope and diversity of the dialogue delivered, often touching on the human condition in general.

Notable, among many praiseworthy aspects, was the majestic cinematography of Gokhan Tiryaki (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia). Particularly impressive where his shots of darkened rooms, illuminated only by flickering firelight reflected upon people's faces.

The only jarring moment occurred towards the conclusion of the film, involving a meeting between Nihal and a bitter and hateful tenant Ismail (Nejat Isler). To reveal why would be amiss on my part.

In all, the three hours plus of the film passed seamlessly, such was the grandeur of Winter Sleep.

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