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winter-sleep_Hi_ResDirected by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Starring Halak Belginer, Melisa Sozen


Winner of the 2014 Palme D’or at Cannes, Winter Sleep certainly comes to our screens with fine credentials as well as large expectations to fill. Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia) brings us an exquisitely shot character study of a flawed man in his own small kingdom.

To a tiny rural village in central Anatolia, Ayden (Halak Belginer) is big fish. Local celebrity, columnist, former actor, landlord and hotelier, Ayden wears (his mostly inherited power) somewhat uncomfortably. Unsure of himself, prone to whims, and more than a little arrogant, Ayden comes into conflict with his young wife, his recently divorced sister and a tenant that owes him money as the sleepy town prepares for the onslaught of winter.

Mention must be made of the length. Winter Sleep is undoubtedly a long film, giving the characters a lot of time to breathe. Hell, at 196 minutes, the characters not only have time to breathe, but to get some chores done and catch another movie in the interim. At times the film may drag, lacking a firm narrative drive to drag the audience along, but what it offers in its place are detailed character studies given space to develop.

To a point, what you get out of Winter Sleep is based upon your expectations for a movie. There is little doubting that the visuals are stunning, with some of the most fascinating scenery we have seen (thanks to the Cappadocian setting), combined with some brave and complex frame composition that is flawlessly executed. There is little doubting the complex character creation, with each actor given a richness of character to work with, developed by witty and well delivered dialogue. Within the warrens of the hotel each scene is basically a two or a three hander, letting the characters bounce off each other, their interaction framing our understanding of them.

However this is weighed against the minimal pay-off given by the conclusion. For such an investment of time to result in substantially a resumption of status quo can be frustrating. True, it is part of the point of Winter Sleep, that the characters are themselves caught in a cyclical pattern, advancing little, and doomed to repeat the same mistakes apparently at infinitum, but it seems galling to spend over three hours carefully revealing the complex nature of the characters to gain no growth. Ultimately Ceylan treats the exercise as more about character revelation than development. These flawed characters are now set in their ways, and will repeat their patterns as inevitably as the seasons.

In the end, your mileage may vary with Winter Sleep based upon your wants for a film. If you want a narratively driven piece, then this epic character study moving at a glacial pace, may not be the movie for you. If you are willing to invest the time and appreciate the fine visuals and acting, then perhaps you will find some reward.




Winter Sleep screens at Somerville, UWA from Tuesday, February 2, until Sunday, February 8, as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. For tickets and session times, go to


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