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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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30 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Take a break and light comes...

Author: shu-fen from Hong Kong, China
9 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Quiet your own voice down (both inside and outside), just follow each man's thought and action throughout the 150-mins journey, you will find you are inevitably one of them: busy with life's serious and trivial issues respectively in both interwoven or stand-alone manner, still being troubled by the though long-buried pain etc., established belief being dissolved...

Poor, poor men, while they don't even have enough resources and energy to deal with their living: insufficient power supply, short of medication for an ill son, dissatisfaction with the hierarchy in workplace, all of them have to spend lots of time on the dead: searching for the murdered, wishing for a new fancy morgue for the villagers (to secure the position), fighting for new equipment for autopsy, ruminating on and at the same time avoiding the true reasons of a self-destroyed wife. They struggle to live for the dead and find the living hard to satisfy or please or handle (Dr. Cemal divorced, Commissar Naci got a sick boy, Prosecutor Nusret's wife killed herself out of revenge, Driver Arab Ali is not happy with his families, Suspect Kenan cannot live with his own son, Mukhtar thinks about a new morgue more than his daughter…). Life or death, which is heavier?

The search of the dead body runs to nowhere. After a verbal fight, the tired group decides to stop over at Mukhtar's home. A magical reversal takes place to their search and feeling after Cemile, Mukhtar's angel- faced daughter serves tea to each and every of the exhausted man. My favourite part.

A film not to be appreciated in Facebook philosophy or speed. Patience and time together make the viewing tastier.

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36 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Not to be missed!!!

Author: tinuviel_mrv from Turkey
22 October 2011

I watched "Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da" just a couple of hours ago and wanted to write a review immediately before the satisfaction it provides fades away. In one word, it's a marvellous film which should not be missed!

The scenery and the images are fantastic. The journey motif makes it the lives that cross one another familiar. And the acting! It totally blew my mind! It seems as if the director is really relating the story of a group of people without ever making his presence felt. It does not feel like you are watching a film at all but from the very first moment you are taken in by the film.

I want to congratulate Nuri Bilge Ceylan and all those contributors in this manner. This was his first film I've ever watched and I'll watch the rest at once without any delay. I already feel like I've lost a lot of my precious time...

Thanks a lot for this cinematographic marvel, people like you make us realise that cinema is in truth an art; one which keeps mesmerising us all...

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Police Procedural that highlights the complexities associated with the human psyche

Author: Murtaza Ali from India
10 February 2013

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is an award winning motion picture directed by Turkish movie maker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is essentially a Police Procedural that also serves to highlight the complexities associated with the Human Psyche. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia serves to be a case study on how humans behave, especially when made to step out of the comfort zone. The world of cinema today finds itself at the crossroads. In a bid to satiate the ever growing demands of the money mongering business moguls the creative aspects of cinema are often forced to take a back seat. The commercialization is not new to cinema, and is something that cannot be done away with. After all, everyone has the right to eke out a living. However, what is worrying is that the business sharks that rule the movie arena merely treat cinema as a money making instrument. This naked opportunism is not only undermining the efforts of the great visionaries of cinema who had nurtured cinema with their blood and sweat, but is also posing a great treat to its evolution as an Art form. Over the years, cinema has been undergoing a continuous transformation from being a mere medium of indulgence to being a profound means of self-realization to being a tool to generate the moolah, but in the process it has seemed to lost its golden glory.

With the Japanese, Swedish, Italian, and Russian Cinema having lost their true vigor, and the Anglo-American Cinema already on the verge of no return, the onus truly lies with the Iranian, Korean, Argentine, and Turkish Cinema to be the beacon of cinema's hope of survival as an Art form. As far as the contemporary Turkish Cinema is concerned, it's synonymous with the name of one Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Ceylan, undoubtedly, is one of the greatest movie makers of our time, and his singularly evocative style not only makes his work poignant and thought-provoking, but, I dare say, also puts him in the same league as Kurosawa and Tarkovsky.

Ceylan delivered a punch with his stunning family tragedy 'Three Monkeys' in 2008. He incredibly manages an encore with his latest flick, the brutal yet brilliant, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is Ceylan's finest achievement till date, and has already earned him some fine accolades including the coveted Grand Prix at Cannes. The two 'Once Upon a Time' movies by Sergio Leone were indeed masterpieces and this is no less, at least one in the making that is expected to withstand the test of the time. Just like with Leone, Ceylan's camera does all the talking with the dialogue itself taking the back seat. Even in its subsidiary role, the dialogue never loses its weight and packs the punch whenever the need arises. The laconicism in dialogue is well substituted by the cinematographic detail, which forms the backbone of Ceylan's work. The panoramic shots of the Anatolian Steppes are highly reminiscent of Leone's widescreen cinematography in the 'Dollars Trilogy'. The latent wilderness of the Anatolian Steppes is greatly analogous to the secrets that lay hidden in the hearts of the deeply convoluted characters. The movie also offers a great insight into the complex procedure adopted by the police to solve murder cases, and the role of autopsy in estimating the actual cause of death.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia acquaints the viewer with the dark side of human psyche. The stark beauty symbolizes the pain—that the characters have experienced right through their lives—which has robbed their inner peace and beauty, and has made them ugly and brutal. The murder mystery that lies at the very core of the plot is just one small part of a highly complex puzzle that has much more to it than meets the eye. The plot allows each character's caricature to have multiple layers, a facet that adds great depth to the movie, and makes second viewing absolutely essential. The Driver, the Police Commissioner, the Prosecutor, the Accused, and the Doctor, who at first come across as run-of-the-mill characters of the quotidian, are in actuality bearers of deeply eccentric personas, victimized by the vicissitudes of fate, stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting desperately for their eventual doom.

One very unique feature of the movie is the striking yet consistent difference that exists between what the characters try to project, and what actually is going inside their diabolical minds, something that only the viewer is made aware of, but not always. The night scenes in the first half of the movie are absolutely astonishing to watch. The cavalcade of cars moving ahead in the pitch black darkness, made visible by the projection of their head lights, is symbolic of hope amidst abject distress when everything is lost and there's is no place to run or hide.

The scene that's my absolute favorite, and that each and every time leaves me completely speechless and awestruck, is the one in which the Mayor's seraphic daughter serves tea to the guests with her pristine, entrancing beauty stimulating a sense of delirium not only in minds of the guests, but also in minds of the viewers. Her piety and pulchritude is incorruptible to such an extent that it has the power to purge the evil that resides in others. The divine glow of her angelic face under the lamp light is worth the luminosity of a million stars in the Universe.

Overall, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a fine specimen of movie-making that elevates contemporary cinema to new heights, both as an Art form as well as a medium of entertainment. The movie's multilayered plot and complex characters make second and probably a third viewing absolutely essential for a deeper and clearer understanding. 9/10

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Comtemporary Turkish Cinema

Author: ronchow from Canada
4 October 2012

First of all I have to admit I never saw any film by Director Ceylan before 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia'. But was I ever glad that I stumbled onto this remarkable film. His work will be on my radar screen from now on.

At over 150 minutes, and with little action and practically no musical score, this film may appear long for many. However, it had my attention for the entire length of the film. My interest to know more about each individual that formed the search party (the party was out trying to locate a dead body in the countryside at night), the stories behind each one of them, and what was beyond the obvious collectively glued me to the screen. Acting was first rate by all. Camera work was artistic and competent. Watching the film was like reading an interesting book in candle light - your eyes are strained but you still want to come to the end.

My only complaint is a good part of my attention was allocated to reading the subtitles, which can be fast at times, so I could not focus 100% on the acting and the images. To remedy that I had to watch it for a second time. I also share the sentiment from some reviewers on one particular scene - the emergence of the village head's young daughter to serve tea to all these weary male bodies, and the reaction by each as they looked up onto her kind and angelic face in surprise. This scene was very well timed and well done.

In summary, serious fan of international cinema should not miss this film. It is worth everyone of the 150+ minutes of your life.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: duobirds from Australia
3 May 2013

A movie for grown ups who prefer subtlety and atmosphere to being spoon fed the obvious. Like all good stories this is character driven, with insights into each major character being gradually revealed as the odyssey of searching for the murder victim, and through to the subsequent autopsy, unfolds.

Along the way, the windswept desolation of the Anatolian steppes, the life of villagers in this region, the subtle revelations into the principle characters, the understated but all important role and influence of women in this society, the granular detail of each scene, and the slow but steady development of the storyline is so absorbing and compact, that despite the length of the movie it seemed to me like the wind and the landscape itself - including an apple - had been drafted into the movie as actors.

To reiterate: a movie for those who prefer depth to splash.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A stunning production by Ceylan.

Author: alan_pavelin from United Kingdom
17 April 2013

With the possible exception of Malick's The Tree of Life, this is the best new film I have seen for several years (after three viewings). It certainly grows on one enormously. It is a very contemplative meditation on mortality; most of the conversations concern that in one way or another. And the characters are really changed after the night's events. The film is stunning to watch, with strong echoes of the Iranian films of Kiarostami (the fruit rolling downhill, the long-shots of winding hillside roads, etc.). Echoes also of Tarkovsky (whom Ceylan admires, and has quoted in earlier films). Strongly recommended for anyone with reasonable attention-spans.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

"Thought provoking but slow."

Author: manendra-lodhi ( from India
22 October 2012

The Turkish drama film can look boring in the first viewing but displays the magic of filmmaking. Actually we go through astonishingly few things during the entire 2:30 hours' time. This is what may bore you. There are long scenes of the cast just chatting. Car is moving through the desert type area. We hear what is going on inside that. The story is about a person convicted of murder, who takes the police along with him to the site of action. More than half portion of the film is spent in this ride. The motive of the film does not seem to be clear enough to me till the end. It is meant to touch the subjects of psychology. And that is why you have to be too much concentrated while watching the film. It is not meant for an average film lover. Also it is highly unlikely that teenagers will understand much and appreciate what had been envisioned in the film. So, basically the film is made for people with a high level of maturity. You cannot expect the same fun and frolic with this film as you found in other films of the same title (Once upon in Mexico, Mumbai, West).


During the entire show you will feel a touch of Abbas kiarostami. There are long takes in which car is moving which made me remember of Taste of Cherry (1997). Camera is placed inside the car to have even more close interaction with the people. While the technique seems boring but I believe this is the best norm to display the emotions relating some psychological talks. What you need to know is that this film is not made for entertainment but to pause at certain moments and ponder about the last statement. The thoughts, talks, beliefs all are worth thinking once. There are very few elements that belong to the category of an adrenaline rush film. Like the number of twists in the film are very few. But the biggest twist which is not the primary one is revealed in the end. And that is revealed in a way that will make you pause for a moment and think of human nature. Among a substantial number of characters, I found that only a few were actually revealed easily to the viewer. Others are meant to be deciphered by you. Sit down and think for another two hours or so. Also the good thing is that there is no set protagonist for the film. And this keeps on changing. First I felt that the policeman is the main character but then the prosecutor comes in a bigger role and finally the doctor seemed to be dominating. At some point of time you even sympathize with the convicted murderer. There is not much soundtrack but then it was not even necessary. I liked the locations very much.


It does not have any negative points as such but I couldn't find the story intriguing enough. And that is what might make you have a negative opinion about the film. But then considering the fact that the film was actually made for ruminating on some questions about human nature, I can say that many of us would take time to understand the league of these films.

MESSAGE: Still working on deciphering.

VERDICT: "Watch if you are mature enough."

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Law enforcement searches the Turkish plains for the site of a murder.

Author: treywillwest
1 June 2012

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has long been one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers. However, due to the obviousness of his influences- particularly Antonioni- in his previous films I hadn't quite ranked Ceylan with what I feel to be the greatest, most distinctive filmmakers of the moment- Bela Tarr, Haneke, Arichitapong Weerasthakul- because, unlike them, Ceylan had not developed a fully distinctive style, despite his hugely apparent talent. With this film, that all changes. Here Ceylan truly finds his voice, and the result is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. Because of his indebtedness to Antonioni, Ceylan's earlier films were characterized by long periods of silence, or at least a lack of dialog. But in truth, unlike his Italian master, Ceylan is ultimately a humanist, and a character-driven story-teller. This is an extremely talkative film, indeed a film about talking, about chatting on the job. A group of men- led by a police chief, a prosecutor, and a doctor, escort a murder suspect through the Anatolian plains in an effort to find the site of the crime. To pass the time along the long road-trip, they talk, gossip and boast. In more intimate moments between two individuals, they reveal (or half-reveal) essential truths about their lives- the fears and weaknesses that shape their world-views. Each man- cop, prosecutor, doctor- hand off their responsibilities to the case to one-another with as little detail, and as much bureaucratic cushioning, as possible. Yet, this is not a wholly inhumane handling. Sometimes their deliberate withholding of facts has a humanistic intention- but is still designed to get the fastest, simplest result. All three are, in their way, humane individuals but they function within a system that is not designed to get genuine answers... or ask real questions. Their actions are shaped by the questions they try to avoid asking. And the silence is filled with the ghosts littering the Turkish landscape, those of countless fallen cultures. The last shots made me think of a line from (perhaps my all-time favorite film) Antonioni's "The Passenger": "Some people look at children and they see the future. I look at them and see the same old tragedy starting all over again."

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

a tale in many dimensions

Author: Kozan Soykal from Ankara, Turkey
1 September 2012

Not being a fan of previous Nuri Ceylan films, I began watching this one with a serious negative prejudice. I was at home, quite tired and fully expected to drift to sleep while watching. Instead, I am here, full of adrenalin, typing this.

Let's get this first: This is a Turkish film. All the characters portrayed are real-life people you will meet in your every day life in Turkey. There are no Hollywood heroes here. There are no action scenes, no exciting car chases. What you get is a bouquet of masterfully-told tragedies entwined with a main story; insane detail in portrayal of the main story and Oscar-level acting from the main characters.

On the surface, the main tale being told appears to be rather mundane. However, the portrayal of this rather mundane investigation goes in to so much detail that the characters in the movie become alive and you become another person riding along them. From the chit-chat of the police officers while driving, to the mixed feeling of adequacy-inadequacy in the whole action; everyone in the main story become very much alive. I would have expected this much detail to bore the spectators. It has the exact opposite effect - total immersion.

While telling the visible tale, we get hints of personal tragedies of the four main characters. This is mixed with idle chatter - you get hints while characters are discussing the proper viscosity of yogurt, for example. Both the actors and the script shine here - towards the end you get scenes where an entire story is told on the expressions of individual actors while the dialogue follows a different path.

If you're a Turk and you watch anything more serious than Battal Gazi flicks; this is a must-see. If you're not a Turk, this movie will provide quite a lot of insight to us.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Delightfully Exhausting

Author: suvopyne49
16 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sometimes some movies can leave the viewers preoccupied and engrossed. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a movie of that sort of quality. Not for nothing this movie won accolades in various film festivals like Cannes et al. The story gets unraveled in a slow pace. It is about a nine men who went for an unforeseen long drive in search for a dead body in the middle of the night. The team included the two suspects who volunteered for the search. But the search continued to be longer than they had imagined because most of the location was pretty much similar to one another. The movie is not as much about the murder as it is about this search.

The Director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, did wonders in creating a perfect ambiance for a night in rural sides of Turkey. Each character in the movie had something to say, had something to do in that search. It is very commendable the way different perspectives of different men from different fields are shown. The presence of any women in the movie is few and far between. But when there is an appearance it was a bliss both to the male characters and viewers. The performance of the cast is excellent and very according to the movie. The Police chief,Prosecutor, Doctor, the driver(Arab) and the killer - everyone of them performed and portrayed their characters in a deft manner. Saying that, it is still harsh to mention only those characters because every character in the movie was portrayed in a deft manner. Take a bow Gokhan Tiryaki. If the movie is brilliant so is the cinematography. From the very first scene and the amazing rural sides in the dead of the night to the focus on one single character, especially the doctor, the cinematography is a work of art. Absolutely stunning. The movie could have been edited a little. One can complain it's a bit slow which is true. But some movies are meant to be slow in order to exhibit their greatness. On a last note I can only say that it's delightfully exhausting.

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