Image above: A still from Melisa Sözen on Winter Sleep (Image from Memento Film International)


The film opens with an aerial scan of a surreal and strangely beautiful rocky landscape and then moves in to reveal a rural village comprised of small houses carved into the rocky terrain. We are in a rural village in the Cappodocian region of Anatolia, Turkey. This idyllic mood is shattered literally and figuratively when a rock is thrown through the window of the car in which two men are driving in the village. The driver of the car, Hidayet, reacting quickly to a situation with which he seems all too familiar, jumps out of the car and collars the young kid, Ilyas, who has thrown the rock and he agressively faces down his surly father. Hidayet is the general factotum of the car’s owner, Aydin.

winter-sleep-086454-©-nuri-bilge-ceylan-745x420 A still from Winter Sleep (Image from Memento Film International)


Aydin is a wealthy landowner who also runs a small elegant hotel outside the village. It turns out the the rock thrower and his father are tenant farmers who are in arrears with the rent and are being severely squeezed by Aydin’s collection lackeys. They are humiiated and angry. Aydin appears to be supremely indifferent and unsympathetic to their reality as well as the antipathy which the whole village feels toward him.

winter-sleep-086747-745x420A still from Winter Sleep (Image from Memento Film International)


The more we see Aydin interact with those in his orbit it becomes clear that this is his modus operandi. A former actor, no longer in his prime, he is stunningly egotistical and sees himself as the center of all that he surveys - including his beautiful, much younger wife, Nihal, and his embittered divorced sister, Necla. They all live together in his graciously appointed apartments in the hotel. Aydin perceives himself as a benevolent benefactor in this rarified and isolated existance - rather like a feifdom - with his select coterie at the top of the heirarchy in this small remote village. Aydin writes articles for the local newspaper and tends to pontificate. Meanwhile, he is doing research for a vanity project - a book on Turkish theatre. Nihal, his disaffected, largely ignored wife, has found her own project. She is organizing a group of locals to raise funds to improve the schools for the underprivileged. Necla, Aydin’s sister, (and possibly his only intellectual equal) has to make do with philosophical discussions with her brother with whom she has a competitive love/hate relationship. There is an atmosphere of simmering resentment and claustrophobia which finally comes to a head when all of the pent up animosity comes out in the open. There is a ripple effect which serves to undermine the fragile underpinnings which are maintaining the status quo.

There are dramatic incidents between Aydin and various outsiders, as well as a major one between the well-meaning Nihal and Ilyas’ family whom she tries to help. An ill-conceived gesture which completely jeopardises her relationship with her husband becomesa a brazen act of rebellion which finally breaks through the brilliantly constructed shell which has allowed Aydin to become such an isolated, disconnected and dictatorial person. There are many fascinating dynamics between the characters which emerge and illuminate their individual realities and which keep one fully engaged for the three and a half hours which is how long it takes for Aydin to finally get over himself, find some humility and essentially press the reset button. The writing is intelligent. The acting is spare and elegant and completely convincing. The setting is haunting and the cinematography is breathtaking. This is that rare long film that fully justifies the time.

 winter-sleep-086535-2©-nuri-bilge-ceylan1-745x420A still from Winter Sleep (Image from Memento Film International)


By Belle McIntyre


Wyatt Gallery: Subtext at Foley Gallery