Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da | Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
DIRECTOR: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | WRITERS: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Ercan Kesal | CAST: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel, Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan, Firat Tanis | Turkey
I’m trying to think of things I don’t love about Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and without much success. I don’t know that I’d have liked the movie to be longer, but I wouldn’t have minded another half hour. I wouldn’t have noticed it, in any case. It never dragged for me and I wonder at some of the comments I’ve read that it would have been better if it had been faster paced. Why? It’s not a police procedural which is what most of the people who don’t like it think it is. It’s about cops searching for the body of someone who’d recently been murdered, but the murderer was drunk when he buried the body out in the middle of absolute nowhere and he can’t remember exactly where it was (there was a “round tree” nearby he remembers), and then in the second half after they’ve found the body it’s about the makeshift autopsy in a little town’s hospital. But the movie isn’t really about that at all — it’s not a whodunnit or whydidhedowhathedid kind of movie. You don’t really know why the murderer killed the guy. He doesn’t really know, and when he’s asked why he did certain things the way he did he gives pragmatic answers that answer the question “why” but not the question why? And just to make things more interesting, Ceylan introduces evidence of another murder and murderer much more intriguing than those in the main plot, but the characters are completely oblivious to the evidence — the all but signed confession — that another murder has even taken place.
I adored the unblinking eye on things as things, on even the most mundane actions or conversations about nothing as what they are. That’s what they are. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s directing is superb, the acting is top notch throughout even from what clearly are non-professionals, and it is one of the most beautifully shot movies I’ve seen in years.