tue 23/07/2024

DVD: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

DVD: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Just because a film is slow, boring and foreign, it doesn't mean it's good

It's over an hour before we see a woman in Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. And even then, she arrives slowly, appearing at first more of a heavenly human smudge than a fully formed figure. But moments later she is filling the screen, and setting it ablaze with warm light. Light that seems to emanate as much from her blue eyes and young face as it does from her lamp. For the first time in the film, we can see.

The male-dominated darkness that grips the opening 60 minutes lifts in response to this moment of clarity and beauty. The tired male eyes that greet her, all double-taking, blinking with awe, say it all.

It's ironic that the title to this film alludes to Sergio Leone's American epic. Despite the basics - the car, the cops, the dead body, the hard-bitten detective with his hands stuck in his pockets - Ceylan's movie has much more to do with Russian than American film-making. Ceylan's metaphorical positioning of the female sex - as everything that is good, wholesome and spiritual - is pure Tarkovsky, as is his juxtaposition of the rational Doctor and the mystical Detective.

And though ostensibly a whodunnit (and in fact also a whatdidtheydo and whydidtheydoit, too), the main journey is, like the desperate trek to the Zona in Tarkovsky's Stalker, a sideshow to the psychological voyage that the characters undertake while on their gruelling bodyhunt across the plains of central Anatolia. Even the black dog who finally reveals the coordinates of the grave appears to be the same pointy-eared breed that guides the visitors to the Zona.

Only in one crucial respect does Once Upon A Time not resemble Stalker; it's simply not as good. Despite a decent formal set up, the film spends too much time demanding respect in a passive-aggressive way typical to art-house movies and too little trying actively to attract respect with things like, say, a half decent script or some really good acting. All of which underlines the fact that just because a film is slow, boring and foreign, it doesn't mean it's any good.

The film spends too much time demanding respect in a passive-aggressive way typical to art house movies


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Totally disagree with you on this one - did you watch it in a cinema or a small screen? My guess is the latter. If so, what you missed, and what made it for me were the wide, empty spaces, rolling landscape in the intriguing half light and the build up of tension overall but it needs a big screen. That, together with the natural interaction and relationship between the men, slowly but naturally building up a picture of each of their very different characters. I found it amusing, gripping, beautiful most of the time and not at all boring. Sometimes it is a relief to see something slow and totally foreign!

I agree with you and totally disagree with the artilcle. It was a great moment of cinema for me. I watched in a CineMA 2 times.

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