Thursday, January 22, 2015

[Review] Winter Sleep

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Turkish drama Winter Sleep is the latest Palme d'Or winner at Cannes. This is either good news or bad news for most audiences, but I'm fairly sure that this film could put even the most dedicated and patient of cinephiles into a coma of boredom. 

The molasses-moving narrative entails Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a former actor who runs a small hotel in a section of Anatolia, and his complex relationships with his wife, Nihal (Melisa Sozen), and the rest of the townspeople. It's an attention-testing 196 minute endurance procedure that actually seems triple its length. I always say, with films of this nature, the length itself isn't always the problem--it's what fills that length. And this painfully dull seat-squirmer is an absolute chore to get through.

The film explores class politics in a very deliberate fashion, stretched across a plodding sprawl that contains pages and pages of excessive dialogue about taxes and community. And just when you think the folks are ready to wrap up a talky scene, they keep on going. After a while, it doesn't even feel like you're watching a film anymore. Instead, it feels like you're trapped in a perpetual office meeting with a bunch of frustrating strangers. A few of the individual conversations seem to last longer than some feature-length films. It's all so distant and emotionless. And there's an early shot when the camera zooms into Aydin's head and the screen pitches to black and fades into the title card, as if we're trying to get inside of it but can't.

There's no questioning that the director captures some vivid and beautifully stark shots, both within the unique landscapes and architecture. Nearly every frame is pretty stunning. But that isn't enough. If the cinematography didn't look so nice, I'd say this is an utter and sloggy waste. Another thing that is for sure--the film's title is fitting in more ways than one.


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