Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da (2011) Poster

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A long night in the Turkish countryside
sarajevo-229 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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A mandala in disguise of a murder
Maggie6 January 2012
Warning: 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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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Raj Doctor20 November 2011
Warning: 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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Something else
Gabriella Luminelli16 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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A Long Night's Journey Into Day
polar2423 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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Totally Unexpected Take on a Police Procedural
tgreen-233-17531117 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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Anatolia, the naivety, the grit, the animosity, the compassion, the beauty....
nowtheworldisgone5 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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Good and slow, as expected from Ceylan
cguldal8 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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Excellent Comtemporary Turkish Cinema
ronchow4 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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You will not be spoon fed, you will be on this journey as an inanimate object. So Observe
Mert6 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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A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Police Procedural that highlights the complexities associated with the human psyche
Murtaza Ali10 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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One of those rare films
ozgun_genc26 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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Take a break and light comes...
shu-fen9 November 2011
Warning: 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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Not to be missed!!!
tinuviel_mrv22 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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duobirds3 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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A stunning production by Ceylan.
alan_pavelin17 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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Law enforcement searches the Turkish plains for the site of a murder.
treywillwest1 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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a tale in many dimensions
Kozan Soykal1 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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Cinematic sleeper of profound vision
conannz26 July 2013
This film is a cinematic sleeper of profound vision. It unveils its mysteries so slowly you wonder if anything is happening but like drips forming a stalactite each shot builds the story.

I saw this in a film festival and even after 2 years there are striking visual scenes that stay with me.

In many ways this film seems almost unscripted but that is a triumph of art over artifice is what makes it a great film rather than just the slow almost documentary style reveal it appears to be.

This film is an outlier and in time will be understood for the masterpiece that it is.
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"Thought provoking but slow."
manendra-lodhi22 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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"Lyrical, incisive and mythical mystery..."
Sindre Kaspersen8 December 2012
Turkish photographer and director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's sixth feature film which he co-wrote with Turkish screenwriter Ebru Ceylan and Turkish doctor, actor and screenwriter Ercan Kesal, co-edited and co-produced, is inspired by a true story that Ercan Kesal experienced in the town and district of Keskin in the central region of Anatolia, Turkey and quotes by Russian author Anton Chekhov (1860-1904). It premiered In competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival in 2011, was screened in the Masters section at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 and is a Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina co-production which was shot on location in Turkey and produced by producer Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan. It tells the story about a murder that has taken place in a small village. Civil servants are looking for a buried body with the murderers, but due to the darkness of the night and the perpetrators not remembering exactly where they left the body, the locating of the victim is prolonged and as the search evolves, a prosecutor named Nusret initiates a conversation with a doctor named Cemal.

Distinctly and precisely directed by Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints, draws an intimate portrayal of a murder investigation that pulls numerous bureaucrats closer to themselves and each other. While notable for its naturalistic and atmospheric rural milieu depictions, sterling cinematography by Turkish cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki, use of sound, use of light and efficient long takes, this dialog-driven and narrative-driven psychological character piece which is set during one night and one day in the Anatolian countryside, depicts some dense and in-depth studies of character.

This literary, reflective, at times humorous and epic crime story which examines themes like guilt, bureaucracy, interpersonal relations and the solitude of man, is impelled and reinforced by its stringent narrative structure, enigmatic characters, substantial character development, subtle continuity, foreboding atmosphere, intriguing story about a woman and the fine acting performances by Turkish actor, filmmaker and poet Yilmaz Erdogan, Turkish actor Taner Birsel and Turkish actor Muhammet Uzuner. A lyrical, incisive and mythical mystery which gained, among numerous other awards, the Grand Prix at the 64th Cannes International Film Festival in 2011.

Beginning as a road-movie with only male characters who are gathered in the midst of a night to find a corpse and solve a murder case, and emphasizing on its portrayal of the characters, their faces, their communication and their surroundings, this scrutinizing drama turns into an internal voyage where the vast steppe landscapes of Anatolia gradually unlocks the souls of the closed people who becomes increasingly affected by their environment and the gruesome act that has brought them together, gazes mindfully into the lonely hearts of human nature and absorbs with its cinematographic excellence.
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Delightfully Exhausting
suvopyne4916 November 2011
Warning: 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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I wish there were more like this...
eptggkod9 November 2013
A true object of beauty- perfect in every way. Utterly lacking the crap factor of most everything Hollywood today. Cinematography is amazing- the story mysterious yet real- the characters grow on you like relatives or co-workers. If secretly the object of cinema is really to transport us out of our world into another then "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" is a true masterpiece IMO. A "Bicycle Thieves" for today.

Like in that film there is an underlying compassion which pervades and like that film there is no artifice- it seemed to me they even used a real corpse as one of the characters. Reminded me at turns of Sergio Leone, French detective mysteries and driving through Wyoming- sparse, lonely, gray. This really does put "regular" films to shame...
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requires patience but definitely worth the effort
Roland E. Zwick17 April 2013
Nuir Bilge Ceylon's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" is the complete antithesis to the conventional American crime drama, which routinely features detectives with matinée-idol looks, an assortment of plot twists and red herrings, and a series of breath-bating car chases to keep the masses from bolting for the exits.

"Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" has none of these. In fact, it features a cast of balding, sagging, middle-aged men - a police chief, a prosecutor, a doctor and two murder suspects - who have gone on a night- long search, through the dour planes of Turkey, in search of a buried body. As the night drags on, the men engage in a series of long, angst- ridden conversations that reveal how their constant exposure to and intimate involvement with the sordid and depraved aspects of the human condition have made them pessimistic and cynical about life. Yet, in the end, at least one of the characters finds a way, through a bit of professional compromise, to bring a little less darkness into the world.

Meanwhile, at every step in the drama, the movie drains the process of crime detection of all its "glamour."

It's a long - 157-minutes long, in fact - methodical, and frequently ponderous journey into the heart of darkness, but fine performances and a complete lack of conventionality make it a trip worth taking.
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True Art of Cinema
Khemaluck Deeprawat2 January 2013
Usually I can't watch a movie this long and slow, but there is something in this film that kept my interest and I wanted to keep watching. I think it is like a poetry or a painting, or an experience. I felt I was drawn into the story like being there, watching these people doing their job and discovering hidden guilt inside themselves. The magnificent cinematography and superb acting, and the mystery of the crime made the movie fascinating.

Life is like that. Sometimes you don't have all the answers to the mystery about other people's lives or what's in their minds, but we can sympathize. I think this is the charm of this long, slow, but extremely beautiful film.
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