Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.
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.
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.
In the rural area around the Anatolian town of Keskin, the local prosecutor, police commissar, and doctor lead a search for a victim of a murder to whom a suspect named Kenan and his mentally challenged brother confessed. However, the search is proving more difficult than expected as Kenan is fuzzy as to the body's exact location. As the group continues looking, its members can't help but chat among themselves about both trivia and their deepest concerns in an investigation that is proving more trying than any of them expected. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
A dark cold night over the Turkish steppes, an entourage of police detectives, a commissioner, a doctor, and two grim prisoners in tow search for a dead body for over 2 hours in the darkest part of the night. What appears to be a good setup for the latest police procedural, crime fiction, thriller, even midnight horror turns out unexpected intensely revealing character portraits, in a most exhaustive and surprisingly humorous way. Recreating his earlier slow burn meditations, yet with a new sense of maturity "Anatolia" is true to the real rhythms of night, the frustrations of waiting for the crucial evidence to appear, the vagueness of memory, remembrance of traumatic events in love and in murder and the bleakness of night of the eternal night and unwelcome truths revealed by the day.
One senses the tedium and frustration of the murder investigation, simultaneously the dread and anticipation of revealing the dead body in it's gory realism, the salacious details resulting in the murder itself and the public crucification of the culprits Anatolia however is almost an antithesis to the psychological revelations over the course of the night.
Before (and if) we reach the major discovery, the police officers and commissar reveal their aversions to murder, mortality, the search for a guilty suspect before the evidence is revealed, their cultural differences, assumptions about class differences, marriage, and human nature. Throughout the eternal stillness of night, poetic treatises about life, death and love are superimposed over cracks of thunder, howling winds and pattering rains, the harsh spotlight of car headlamps contrast with the comforting glow of a flickering lantern on a village porch.
The search is tedious and frustrating for both the officers and the audience, as much as the motives are unclear, like love, life, and marriage. The ambiguity of night is as unclear as the motives for murder, does daybreak reveal anything revelatory, and does the dissection of a murder case hours and days after its uncovering reveal any truth into it's motives or human nature itself?
The audience should be wiser against the small town working-class police task-force just following orders; they may empathise more with the reflective and sensitive Doctor Cemal or the cunning and charismatic Prosecutor Nusret, yet under the surface, their own personal lives in marriage and children are vexed, the investigation is almost a respite from these frustrations. The commissioner seems haunted by his ill wife, yet on the surface, this is treated as a running joke, later, it reveals thematic links to the search for answers in the unknown murder case. Similarly the doctor tries to make peace with his conscience about a past personal relationship. The impression of him is the most sensible, grounding the moral compass, yet his flaws are also revealed by daylight.
Contrasts between these characters and the murder suspect who appears (at least on the surface) to be more emotionally stable than many of the prosecutors is complex and kaleidoscopic. This is a remarkable introspective film ostensibly exploring a murder case and therefore guilt and conscience, yet further introspection reveals riffs on love story(ies), female roles, family, honour, class prejudice and the legal system.
Women appear seldom in the film, some wives are talked about yet, their effect on the men (and audience) is haunting, magnetic, and enigmatic. The small towns which they stop at along their road trip are barren, simple, country-like, impressing the sense of isolation both physically and more saliently, emotionally. The appearance of women and children in these towns is revelatory and thirst-quenching. Therefore a lot of time spent for introspection and meditation, watching how the characters reacting to the tedium, stress, fatigue and mortality of a long hard night.
The terrain of Anatolia is a foreboding character in itself with it's rolling fields illuminated by the sharp piercing car headlights slicing the night like snippets revealed about each character - yet the whole picture remains hidden. A storm is sensed coming both literally and figuratively, the expectant howling winds like ghosts of the dead and the memories of the characters across the unforeseeable terrain. The mood is incredibly poetic, rhythmically blending with the sounds of the whistling winds, the crunch of icy gravel, pattering of rain, and fluttering pigeons, all in the emptiness of night.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan's previous films have been sombre (frustrations) meditations on human nature, such as the brewing storm in 3 Monkeys, the solitude of cascading snow and the cracking waves of the harbour in Distant, to the scorching blistering summer in Climates; environment and mood work in integration in his work. In "Anatolia", the moods over the windy plains are as intense as the brewing moods in the characters.
The scenes of the cars rolling across the plains lit only by the headlights occupy the initial part of the film. They run almost in real time; with the wind whipping though grass and plains they form a stark, haunting and grim atmosphere. There are bravura haunting scenes like the rolling apple down the hill, whilst initially seemingly superfluous, yet curious it's implications to reveal characters' current moods and eventual outcomes. And the the colloquial dinner at the mayor house under the swaying candlelight, then in pitch darkness, the light revealing (literally) different shades of each character; they the revelation (apparition) of a miraculous figure moments later is spellbinding.
This is cinema with the highest respect for the audience, yet Ceylan has said that he wants to bore the audience, "because out of boredom might come a miracle - maybe days later, maybe years." Not sure whether to take this seriously however what it does demonstrate is a greater onus on viewer to think actively about the story and the consequences; out of deep reflection perhaps may come a revelation about the characters and ourselves.
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