by GREG KING
The 4th Turkish Film Festival kicks off in Melbourne at ACMI cinemas from December 18. This year the festival is celebrating 100 years of Turkish cinema as well. There are six feature films screening, including a restored print of the classic The Bride, and lots of special guests who will be participating in Q&As.
The latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan is the bleak Winter Sleep, which seems sure to similarly divide audiences. It comes with the cachet of having won the prestigious Palme D’Or at Cannes this year, but it seems that the jury has awarded his achievement rather than a great piece of cinema. Winter Sleep is a meandering and languorously paced 196-minute drama that will prove a challenge and a chore for many unfamiliar with Ceylan’s style and understated approach. The film’s inordinately lengthy running time could easily have been trimmed back to make it more accessible and less bum numbing.
Co-written by Ceylan and his wife Ebru Ceylan, Winter Sleep is a character study and it also an understated exploration of a marriage in crisis. It is strictly minimalist in its staging and the film unfolds largely as a series of long, extended conversations that are full of dense dialogue that is oblique, intellectual and philosophical in nature.
Ceylan’s regular cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki has used natural lighting for the interior shots which brings a somewhat bleak and ominous mood to the material. Tiryaki has also opened the film up for a couple of scenes to capture the beautiful vistas of the region, and admittedly the widescreen lensing is superb.
Ceylan is interested in exploring the dichotomy that exists in contemporary Turkey, the gap between the rich and the poor and the difference in values between modern Turkey and the remote rural areas seemingly stuck in the past and with a more simple view of life. His approach to the material though is rather understated. There are numerous literary references throughout the film, with allusions to the likes of Shakespeare and Chekhov.
The rather ambiguous and abrupt ending may also prove a turn off for many who have endured the three hours in anticipation of some huge moment of drama and emotional payoff. Winter Sleep will have many who champion its style and intellectual rigour, but there will also be many who will find the prospect of sitting through this film something of a chore
To find out more about this year’s festival, Greg spoke to festival director Nalan Cebeci.