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Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da
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Reviews & Ratings for
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia More at IMDbPro »Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da (original title)

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106 out of 125 people found the following review useful:

A long night in the Turkish countryside

10/10
Author: sarajevo-2 from Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina
29 July 2011

This film won the Grand Prix in Cannes, and it was deserved. A team goes into the countryside to find the body of a murder victim. The team includes the two men accused of the murder,one of whom has confessed and says he wills show them where they buried the body, the police chief, prosecutor, doctor, diggers, and guards. As the night drags on into the next day and the body is not found, the men grow more and more tired. Much of the film is beautifully shot in the dark or semi-dark, lit only by the headlights of the cars or a lamp in the village where they stop to rest. The filming is slow, showing the beautiful countryside and vignettes that wonderfully shed light on the different characters. What seems to be a simple task grows more and more complex; everything in the movie turns out to be more complicated than it first seems. Everyone seems to be guilty of something, so the film becomes a question not only of will the body be found, but who is guilty of what?

One could say that the film is too slow, but just as the team grows more and more tired, so arewe as the viewers, participating in the fatigue of the team, drawn into the feelings of the characters. Women and children are present only as lovely cameos in the film, but are behind almost everything. The actors are all superb, and it was amazing to me that Ceylan could show such depth and breadth of character and emotion and drama with only a few lines of dialog and amazing closeups of the faces.

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84 out of 103 people found the following review useful:

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

8/10
Author: Raj Doctor from Amsterdam, Netherlands
20 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had not followed the schedule of film festival, but when mention of screening of Turkish movie came in newspaper, I got interested. After knowing that it is directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys fame) I surely got excited and checked whether it was to be re-screened? It was. Thus I went to see it.

The Director Ceylan had impressed me thoroughly with his earlier movie Three Monkeys, by its unique narrative structure, still camera, minimal dialogues and picture perfect images. I was not able to sit through his earlier film Climates (but I wish to see it again now!).

The film is about a team of 10 state officials - mainly Doctor Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner), Commissioner Naci (Yilmaz Erdogan), Prosecutor Nusret (Taner Birsel) and their entourage of driver, police, lieutenant, diggers plus 2 criminals suspects (Firat Tanis and other) – who set out in the evening to search of a burial place of dead body of a person killed by the suspects, in rural landscape of Anatolia. The team travel unsuccessfully from one location to another, taking rest in the night at a remote village – where they are served dinner by the Mukhtar (village head). Morning they re-start their search and finally find the dead body, and take it to the town – where a post-mortem of the dead body is done.

There are a few sub-plots that unfold in layers – of Prosecutor's story about (probably) his wife's suicide; Commissioner's story about his sick son & his experience about crime where he says – In 20 years invariably he has come across a woman's role as a root cause in all crimes he has investigated (anti-feminist!?; the suspect story about his son; the Doctor's story about his divorce; Mukhtar's story about his village problems and about his daughter (Cansu Demirci); the dead person's wife's and son story.

The movie was mentioned many times over that it is tediously (painfully) slow – which I did not find because the movie allows audience to get involved with the characters. The narrative is not straight. It requires audience's attention and involvement.

A few things about the movie – it is a murder mystery, where the hint of mystery is unfolded in the last 5 minutes. I would not reveal it, but as a hint - from the beginning closely watch the Doctor's character who unravels the mystery during post-mortem. Brilliant! A few scenes that require mention – car headlights in long shot beaming amongst the Anatolia hillock, the journey of a freshly fallen apple (from the tree) down the hills to the stream, the magical scene of Mukhtar's daughter serving tea, (WOW!) and the last post-mortem scene. There are also various streams of dialogues that are very intriguing to render the characters.

Ceylan has come to age with this cinema. He has his own style of cinematic narrative, that many on commercial diet may not digest; but he has this thorough knowledge of cinema as a medium. Read Ceylan to understand how he has evolved as a director: "The placement of how high a camera should be depends on the straight lines one sees on the screen." Thespianique! Ceylan started with a team of 1 person in his first film (himself) to progress a team of 14 technicians in this film. No need to say more. Acting of all cast is brilliant! It is Ceylan show all the way! Watch it.

(8 out of 10)

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80 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

Anatolia, the naivety, the grit, the animosity, the compassion, the beauty....

10/10
Author: nowtheworldisgone from Turkey
5 June 2011

Anatolia, simply the rest of Turkey other than Istanbul. It is a place where the hospitality is served as the only gift with respect and honor. The fascinating thing is to see such sort of story which takes place in this land of world where hundreds of nations have existed and vanished throughout the history, by a magnificent director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. I can understand people who have harsh criticism about these kind of arts so called as ''film-noir''. It may seem too slow or simply lack of action or someone can even question how other people can enjoy by watching so called cliché ' a man looking beyond the horizons all along the movie'. The point is no body has to like this sort of art. For instance it is like reading a book. Consider some pages of a book when there is no action but the author speaks instead of the hero of the book. So by watching ' a man looking beyond the horizons' makes me question what he could think or makes me put myself in the middle of the situation. And I really feel like I am that guy in the movie. But I really really and really feel like I am that guy, when the movie is so perfectly directed and so perfectly portrayed.

We can call this movie as a bridge or as a milestone in Ceylan's career. It is as simple as that, there is a very obvious change in Ceylan's directing and writing after seeing that movie. Having seen that, we can make this comparison like Before or After Once upon a Time in Anatolia. It is not 'three monkeys' or 'the climates' or 'the distant', it is obviously another one that carries Nuri Bilge Ceylan's way of directing to the next level.

Another must see...

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57 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

A mandala in disguise of a murder

9/10
Author: Maggie from United States
6 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just as I expected, seeing this film is an engrossing experience!Every quiet moment has a lot to offer.

I feel like being the autopsy doctor in the story, but instead of examining a corpse, the audience examines the character's minds. Delving into the doctor's mind turns out to be incredibly intriguing for me! It is very interesting to see the person who is supposed to be the most observant turns out to be the most oblivious, and the person who is supposed to be the most cool-headed turns out to be the most empathetic.

The film is abundant with complicated interactions among the conscious, the unmindful, and the subconscious minds. In one of the excellent scenes, all the main characters are sitting in a room which is poorly lit with a flickering gasoline lamp. The angelic face of the mayor's daughter serves like a psychological blank screen, revealing the demons of each of the main characters without they themselves noticing it. (As audience, we only more surely, but not definitely, understand what the demons are when the film comes to the end. ) While the characters project their feelings to the innocent figure, the camera pans to the distorted shadow on the wall of the mayor's daughter against the lamp light, hinting at the Allegory of the Cave. The analogy is indeed masterfully posited here foreshadowing the paradox in truth-finding, the theme of the story. The other must-mention scene is,of course, the ending, which is symbolized by the blood stain on the doctor's face. The stain is no different from a scornful spit from the deceased victim, and the justice system. It is also, however, an ethical choice, a moral decision that he deliberately made to spare the pain of the victim's family.

Truth can be accessed by only few people, and exclusively by those who consciously stay mindful. For the rest of the people, they may not even know whether they can handle the truth.

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58 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

Totally Unexpected Take on a Police Procedural

10/10
Author: tgreen-233-175311 from Canada
17 December 2011

I think this is the best movie of 2011 so far. A very different, but brilliantly conceived three part police procedural that is really a character study of two men and how they each deal with the past. In many ways, I had a similar experience here to what I have when I read a really good novel. The characters are rich and complex, often funny, and thoroughly believable. Nothing is crammed down the audience's throat, yet there is so much detail and nuance that it becomes easy to see the two men for the basically good, complex people they are. This is a movie that respects the audience's intelligence. It is also a movie that is easily among the best shot and edited of the year. In fact, it is hard to think of a single thing that I would suggest to improve the film. I have seen other Ceylan films, but nothing of his has ever had the depth, nuance and humanity of this one.

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48 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Something else

9/10
Author: Gabriella Luminelli from United States
16 January 2012

This movie was something else. I don't know what to make out of it. It was amazing how such emotionally complicated and interwoven stories could be captured in cinema. I thought the story was somewhat similar to Fargo, but Nuri Bilge Ceylan certainly added his personal artistic spin on it.

There were so many unknowns. You keep on watching till the end waiting for the next big surprise. Was the dead man really the husband of the woman with the headscarf? What is in the doctor's past? Did the doctor have a traumatic childhood experience? Is the doctor going to marry the mayor's daughter? Who is the boy's real father?

The acting was superb. I loved how the chief police officer effortlessly switched between serious and trivial matters. The mayor was so real, I thought they brought the actual mayor from the village to play the part.

The cinematography was also masterful. The face of the killer was unforgettable. I thought the movie was too slow at times to get the message across, but overall watching it was a delightful experience. Well done.

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59 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

One of those rare films

9/10
Author: ozgun_genc from Turkey
26 September 2011

I've just watched Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Very courageous naming after Sergio Leone's masterpieces. But definitely it deserves that.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan has always been one of my living cinema idols. I know many young people in Turkey inspired by his cinema, and wanted to make their own films. He has affected a whole generation of new filmmakers, both in and outside Turkey. Not because he won a Grand Prix in Cannes with his film Distant that he shot with 3-4 people of crew, but because we can actually feel the essence of cinema in his films.

I think these are enough to tell you about my admiration to him. But this film I've watched tonight was a true surprise for me. Its his best work so far, and was very pleasant to watch in spite of its long runtime.

To me, its one of the achievements in the world cinema in the last few years.

Unlike to his previous films, I see real mastery this time. He was not experimenting , not learning to direct, not trying to make a good movie out of nothing, but was exactly knowing what he does.

The acting was superb. All the leading actors had great performances. As a guy from Turkey I can say that every single moment was so much real.

All these tensions in real life situations and the subtle humor in the background. I think it has the true value of NBC's films.

For a film lover there there are some films in the world, always made by some exceptional directors, that shows you the true beauty of cinema. These are not average art-house films, nor anything you watch for having some good time. These films are more like some religious rituals or spiritual experience. Not because they are mystical or having some spiritual moments, but just because they respect cinema so much and make it a sacred art form.

This film was one of those rare films that reminds me why I love cinema that much..

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48 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

You will not be spoon fed, you will be on this journey as an inanimate object. So Observe

8/10
Author: Mert from Australia
6 August 2011

I just watched this at the Melbourne Film Festival, I found it quite good. It terms of narrative it was quite a mysterious journey for the audience, the audience as the picture began were in the dark and begun discovery the means of the story non-overtly. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, But that of course applies to all forms of narrative may it be Barry Lyndon where you know the fate of Barry but are still enthralled with the story or a movie such as this, some of the audience (Many people left the theatre through the course of the film) can feel tedious with this approach accompanied with various long Tarkovsky-esque takes, however I think it was quite interesting, it's as if a camera just accompanied this search of the everyday case of a local Turkish law enforcement. I had some preconceptions about the film, I thought it was going to be quite stark and gloomy, in the likes of No Country For Old Men (Which is a brilliant film), however it proved to have a myriad of scenes with humour and it acted like a beacon of light for the sombre setting the movie is placed in. This movie had some amazing cinematography, great lighting of the night scenes, only lit by the headlights of the cars and some great shots really capturing the audience. I think the film lacked a score, if I were the director I would have put in a very ambiance oriented score like in Tarkovsky's Solaris, to really unsettle the viewer because it really would strengthen the ambiguity experienced by the characters and audience alike. This film was quite good, yes it is a slow burner, but I think the strangeness of the story and it's concealed nature manages to outweigh it's tediosity. 8/10 from me.

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33 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Good and slow, as expected from Ceylan

Author: cguldal from US
8 October 2011

Ceylan's films always get criticized for being too slow, and yes, they are slower, sometimes much slower, than what the flickering-advertisement generation is used to today. In Turkey, he is heavily criticized for being "too artsy," inaccessible, and boring. I, on the other hand, marvel at how non-Turkish audiences can actually watch and like his films; it speaks volumes for his brilliant talent in making something so foreign and different a universal piece for everyone to appreciate. The untranslatable colloquial language, the lives of people in remote parts of Turkey with petty worries, a murder investigation that happen in snail pace, the local politics of small, mud-brick villages all become accessible. Combined with his impeccable sense of cinematography and some stellar performances, especially from Yilmaz Erdogan, whom we are more used to seeing in comedic roles, the film shines.

Why a 7/10, then? Well, I have seen all of Ceylan's films. They all execute the story arc well. They do not have Hollywood endings where everything is neatly resolved, of course, but they usually have some progress and movement through the arc. Somehow, this film lacked that. I felt like the main story arc was not fulfilled. I cannot really explain it; perhaps it was that too many things were left untold, or some "hints" were too vague and just when you thought they will lead somewhere, they didn't? Nevertheless, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is another cinematic gem from the Turkish master. Highly recommended for those who do not have to have action packed scenes and formula-bound stories to enjoy a film.

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17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A Long Night's Journey Into Day

8/10
Author: polar24 from Australia
23 July 2012

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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