Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Winner of Grand Jury Prize at Cannes is playful, elegant, frustrating and beautiful
What extraordinary eyes and ears has the Turkish photographer and director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Eyes that (via cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki) transform the most workaday vistas into lustrous dreamscapes; ears that find the hidden absurdities and profundities in everyday exchanges. This – Ceylan’s sixth feature film and the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes – is a humane, beguiling and idiosyncratic shaggy dog story that circles its main narrative rather than addressing it directly; as policemen, a doctor and a murder suspect search for a buried body in the Turkish countryside, the facts emerge piecemeal, as do details about the lives, values and relationships of the men we’re watching.
Like Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr Lazarescu, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia emphasises the multiplicity of stories that cling around any one event; like Fargo, it plays up the incessant bubbling of life and personality even as death lurks nearby, and the absurdities that attend the solemnest events. Playful, elegant, frustrating and beautiful, this film has the moral and imaginative scope of a great novel; it demands and rewards complete absorption.