A dowdy university instructor Isa is an inattentive husband to his younger, TV-business wife Bahar. Self-absorbed and selfish, Isa only communicates in the most rudimentary way, while she, similarly, detaches into crying jags and juvenile behavior.
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
This is a movie within movie, which is almost recursive, i.e., the movie inside looks like director Ceylan's previous movie, Kasaba. It is about the movie director, Muzaffer, going back to ... See full summary »
Near the Bosporus, Eyüp and Hacer live in a modest flat with their son Ismail, in his twenties, who's doing poorly in his studies. Few words pass between them, and a past family tragedy brings sorrow daily. On a rainy night, Eyüp's boss Servet, a wealthy businessman who's entering politics, hits a pedestrian on a lonely road. He drives off and offers money to Eyüp if Eyüp will take the fall - probably a six-month sentence. Eyüp agrees, and while he's in prison, Ismail wants his mother to ask Servet for enough money to buy a car. Servet, in turn, desires Hacer. How can this play out? Written by
Three Monkeys proved to me that Turkish cinema can rub shoulders with the very best in contemporary cinema.
It has a certain maturity and mastery of the medium even if it follows the patterns of Tarkovsky, Terrence Mallick and Zvyagintsev, with its ability to externalize the internal feelings of individuals and catapult those feelings in context with the well-chosen exteriorssometimes natural environments and sometimes man-made structures. It's a film that makes the capability of a director and art director stand out even to a village idiot viewing cinema.
The title of the film does refer to the proverbial three monkeys; one who refuses to hear, one who refuses to see, and one who refuses to speak. It is an interesting contemporary tale revolving around three adults that make up a Turkish urban nuclear family. The husband drives the car of a politician to make a living, the wife works in a kitchen of a large establishment, and their adult son is a student dreaming of owning a car. It is a tale that could take place in Turkey or any other part of the world suggesting that tales of individual angst fall within some external matrix that a viewer can either glimpse or reject as a cosmic play of dice.
The three "monkeys" are a husband, wife and son living a cohesive, stable life. A fourth character is a typical creepy politician whose actions disrupt the tranquil life of the cohesive trio by a chain of lies, deceit, lust and avariceall brought about by the ripple effect of an external request. Here is a tale of three essentially good people who become entwined in actions that threaten to break up their happy but mundane middle-class lives.
What is the external request that leads to the domino effect on the family? The politician falls asleep while driving a sedan and knocks down an unknown person on a remote road and the incident is noticed by a passing car. To preserve his political chances at the soon-to-be-held elections, he requests his regular driver to take the rap and go to prison for the crime he did not commit, while the politician promises to continue paying his salary and provide a large sum at the completion of his jail term. The first "monkey" gets hooked to the suggested plan that he hears.
The son dreams of a family car that could be acquired with an advance on the politician's final payment to his father and goads his mother to meet the politician with the request. And you soon have two other "monkeys" trapped by their own innocent actions that spiral into grievous crimes because they choose not to see, hear or speak. Interestingly, each of the three is essentially a well-meaning, ethical individual. However, the external request of a politician to the head of the family of the trio opens up vistas for three good persons to choose a deviant path they might not have chosen otherwise.
The filmmakers go on to suggest that the pattern could spillover to upset another sedate life of a good man at the end. Those affected do not seem to learn from history. The cosmic tale carries on like a Shakespearean or Tolstoyan tragedy, even as dark clouds gather over the magical landscape on the coasts of the Marmara Sea (Black Sea) captured with the digital magic of Gokhan Tiryaki (the cinematographer of Ceylan's Climates as well). Are we individuals truly in control of what happens to us in life? This is the implicit question the film asks of the viewer. Do events in our life force us take paths we never would have taken otherwise? Do we learn from our mistakes or prefer to make bigger mistakes like a "monkey"? Ironically, the film itself is a product of another familybut this one is incredibly talented. The husband and wife team of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (director, editor, and writer of Three Monkeys, and actor of his earlier films Distant and Climates) and Ebru Ceylan (writer and art director of Three Monkeys, actor of Distant and Climates and an award-winning short-filmmaker) team up with Ercan Kesal (actor in Three Monkeys, playing the politician in the movie) to write up this interesting film.
The story is only a small part of the film's broad enjoyment spectrum. Take the art direction-the building in which the trio live looks imposing at the start of the movie. Only towards the end of the movie as the lives of the individuals fall apart you see the building has an imposing front but is actually a poor tenement with a fabulous view. The railroad becomes a flight path to freedom from the drudgery of the house, but tenants of the house need to cross physical (symbolic) barriers to reach the station. Interestingly, the head (and face) of the son poking out of the train form the poster of the film a shot that is repeated with differing expressions as the film progresses.
In this film, the husband-wife team of the Ceylans stays behind the camera. They introduce a TV actor Hatice Aslan who plays Hacer, the mother/wife role in the film. The performance is nothing short of spectacular. The sudden action of kicking up of her shoes while sitting and breaking into smiles of freedom is unforgettable; the true implications of the scene revealed to the viewer only much later.
Turkish cinema has thrown up great filmmakers. Yilmaz Guney was my favorite Turkish filmmaker from that country. Now I have added Ceylan (and his talented wife) to that list. Guney took up subjects that mirrored politics and got into trouble for that. Ceylan appears to be apolitical except for his dark universal swipe at politicians as a tribe. Or is he?
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