The longest Palme d’or winner. Some similarities to Leviathan in style. That one seems angry about the individual’s plight against the corrupt state and religion (although the individual’s drinking problems aren’t helping any), but this one has more general, philosophical matters in mind: the ability of people from different classes to sympathize with each other, a single woman’s place in society, self-glorifying acts supposedly for the benefit of others, so on. Variety said it was “considerably more accessible” than the great Once Upon a Time in Anatolia – not sure that I’d agree, since I thought that one more explicitly explained what was on its mind.
Inspired, as are all Ceylan’s films apparently, by Chekhov stories. Aydin is a major landowner in a beautiful location. He’s made a hotel out of his family home carved into the side of the hills, where he lives with sister Necla and young wife Nihal. Discontent appears almost immediately, when out with his driver/assistant, their tenant’s son throws a rock at their Jeep window. Three hours later, after a series of very long conversations (I timed one at 19 minutes), it’s clear why nobody likes Aydin. M. Smith writes that “no contemporary director has a better compositional eye than Ceylan,” and that’s part of what keeps this 3+ hour talkfest compelling – it’s so beautiful. The endless speeches are tiring, but also draw you into the characters, until at the end, nothing much has happened and nobody has progressed from where they started, but it feels like the world has shaken.
B. Croll for Twitch:
At first, Aydin seems like a perfectly reasonable person … He’s happily married, charitable and polite. He’s good natured, cultured and hospitable to all. He seems on his face to be the agreeable avatar of contented middle-agedom, and yet by film’s end we recognize in him a malicious, almost tyrannical villainy.
The talk, for all its abstractions, gradually lays bare the poor regard with which most of the characters hold each other, and, at about the halfway point, when Aydin (played with glum tenacity by Haluk Bilginer) calls his put-upon spouse (Melisa Sözen) a “bored neurotic,” the fur really begins to fly. … The accumulation of images imbues the film with a kind of bleak coziness that brings to life the accusation that Aydin’s sister Necia (Demet Akbag) levels at him: “In order not to suffer, you prefer to fool yourself.” The strength of Winter Sleep is not so much in what any of the characters say as much as what it needs its near-monumental length to actually show: which is the way the most seemingly banal circumstances can throw you into a dark night of the soul before you even know what’s going on, a state of wide-awake despair so calamitous one has no choice but to make a companion of it.