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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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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

You just can't make sense of it.

Author: Ben Larson from Leesburg, FL
25 August 2012

At 150 minutes, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's film seems overly long for the story that is told. Having said that, I must admit the ending caught me unawares. So, it may be long, but the story so captivates you that the time flies by.

The story concerns a murderer who doesn't remember where he put the body. So. the prosecutor, police, doctor, and assistants go driving around the countryside at night with the two suspects to look for it.

Having a lot of time on their hands, they begin to pee off layers of their selves and reveal inner secrets, frustrations, fears, etc. This, and the incredible landscape, is what keeps you interested.

Ceylan doesn't slap you upside the head with answers. They are subtly revealed, or slightly hidden. No matter. It is the journey that excites, and it is never boring.

150 minutes. Long to some, but just right for this adventure.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Transience. Impermanence. Life. Death.

Author: gregwetherall from United Kingdom
25 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No doubt about it, this is a film that takes its time, unravelling slowly.

It is layered. Complex. Subtle.

There are many conversations exchanged that, on the surface, appear inconsequential. Early on, there is a protracted discussion in the police vehicle about types of yoghurt. The lengthy dispute does nothing to further the plot. It doesn't matter. What it does manage is to make the viewer feel like the characters are human and tangible. These opinions reflect real people and they engage with sincerity, just as people do in every day situations.

There are strong performances all round from the cast, who manage to reflect the complex make-up of the protagonists. The writers, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Ceylan and Ercan Kesal, have succeeded in creating three dimensional characters who feel real, and come to the screen with a history. Thankfully, the cast's depictions are measured, understated yet emotionally effective. The photography, by Gökhan Tiryaki, is perfectly balanced too, capturing the natural beauty of the landscape without shying away from the gritty reality of the poverty burdened by many in the local community.

This is not a film for everyone. If a blockbuster represents your average 3 minute pop song, then this plays like a mellow symphony. The story moves along with a whisper, rather than a scream. It is a film that has been lovingly crafted with an assured confidence; Ceylan understands the necessity to 'show, not tell'.

To read the full review and more, go to:

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

long yes quiet yes simple yes brilliant acting n cinematography

Author: robt1137 from United Kingdom
15 July 2012

this is an intellectual film beautifully shot quietly it talks about life regret guilt. Delves into human frailties and conscience. There are actually many levels to this film and the search for a murder victim is by the by in my opinion. I've thought about it a lot since and it captures an incredible atmosphere of night dusk dawn and a barren dark land. Its a very sad film and very little to make yu smile, yu end up feeling regret and sad for all the characters in one way or another..the relationship between doctor and prosecutor (whos wife has died) is touching. In the end yu need to be in the right mood for this.. Don't watch it with your shallow friend or partner... Stick to something less challenging and save for yourself... If yu wanna give it 1/10 stick with xmen and spongebob square pants or reverse is true if yu like Hollywood bilge steer clear of this it ain't for yu.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Memorable Film Experience

Author: georgep53 from Boston, MA
20 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I wasn't sure what to expect from this film. The 150 minute length is highly unusual these days and the subject matter seemed a little abstruse. After seeing "Once Upon a Time In Anatolia" I can highly recommend it. This is a near-great to great film that transitions from a satirically absurdist criminal investigation to a soul searching struggle between reason and romanticism. Much of the film is reminiscent of a Samuel Beckett dark comedy and takes place during the night as argumentative, quarreling Turkish policemen transport around a sullen murder suspect in an effort to try and locate the remains of his victim. Adding to the frustration are the landscapes which all look hauntingly similar. The principal characters in the task force are Commissar Naci (Yalmiz Erdogan) the emotional, short-tempered police officer in charge; the Prosecutor (Taner Birsel) who tries to keep the investigation from sputtering out of control and Doctor Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) who besides being the medical examiner also becomes a repository for the group's personal issues and anxieties. The film based on an actual event benefits from the brilliant direction of Nuri Bilge Ceylan and the outstanding cinematography of Gokhan Tiryaki. A remarkable piece of filmmaking that you'll think about for a long time.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A textbook definition of the word "engrossing"

Author: jdennist from United States
7 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watching ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA, as the film neared its end, I kept on saying "All right, it'll cut to black right about now." Time after time, I was proved wrong. The film goes on and on (over 2.5 hours), yet unlike, say, THE RETURN OF THE KING, once the film did end, I realized that the film from start to finish moved along exactly as it should, and that returning to it, knowing how it would finish, I would have no complaints about its structure.

Certainly I have no complaints about the acting (marvelous all around, but Taner Birsel as the prosecutor and Muhammet Uzuner as the doctor take top honors), the directing (patient, clear, sympathetic), the writing (injected with a welcome sense of dark humor), the cinematography (glorious long shots, long takes, use of light and texture), or the editing (the montage wherein the mayor's daughter serves tea to the men is subtle genius).

While the deliberate pace can be a touch trying for some, if you open yourself up to it, OUATIA will no doubt pull you in and keep you hooked; it's one of the best films of 2011, and one which deserves as wide an audience as, say, THE ARTIST has received.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Either scenario or acting or images are excellent

Author: umutmorkoc from United States
14 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the most popular Turkish director and we can say "Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da" is his mastership periods work. Ceylan, because of his photographer background, usually prefers visual expression to verbal one but in "Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da" we can see the successful examples of both expression methods. Ceylan's use of the images success clearly stand out in "Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da". In "Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da" Ceylan tells a story of resemblance that occurs as a result of town life. All of the acting are excellent but I want to emphasize Fırat Tanış's(suspect of murder) performance, his performance is so reel and impressive. Either scenario or acting or images are excellent.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Mercy and philosophy

Author: ReganRebecca from Canada
3 January 2017

I went into this completely blind, but aware of the generally positive reception it had received and fell head over heels in love with this movie.

After two brothers murder a man and bury his body somewhere a small group of men are assigned to go on a hellish roadtrip, in the middle of the night, to try and find the body based on vague descriptions one of the murderers, who claimed to be drunk at the time of the murder, gives to the police. While both brothers are along for the ride, the local doctor (Muhammet Uzuner) and the prosecutor (Taner Birsel).

As the men travel from location to location in the dark, they naturally begin to converse with each other on medical issues, on parents and children etc. The prosecutor even begins to talk of strange old cases he remembers, especially one involving a woman who predicted the date of her own death.

To say more would be to the spoil the plot of a very slow moving but beautiful movie, one in which details dropped early on become more and more important. The construction of the screenplay is really surreal and something else and the unwieldy twists and turns it follows lead to a very beautiful place where we learn the meaning of mercy.

The acting is really fabulous, but the true star here is director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (who also co-wrote the screenplay) who makes the slow camera work feel dynamic and alive.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Where what is revealed is not at all what we expect....

Author: Roger Burke from Brisbane, Australia
18 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At just over two and a half hours, this fourth effort by the directorial minimalist master, Nuri Ceylan, will probably deter many viewers. From the fade-in, however, fans of Ceylan will be immediately drawn into - once again almost voyeuristically through a dirty glass window as the scene focuses - the ordinary lives of three men sharing a meal, drinks, conversation and jokes at a run-down garage somewhere in Anatolia. Voices are so muffled we can't hear what is being said. We don't know who these men are.

Heavy traffic crisscrosses the scene, occasionally obscuring the view; outside, a dog barks. One of the men picks up food and, as the scene widens to show the darkly brooding night sky crashing with thunder (almost a Ceylan trademark in movies), he takes the food to the dog, gives it a pat, looks around and up, and returns to his meal and the others. Fade to black.

Next fade-in (next day? next week? who knows?) at dusk, we see on the horizon, from a high vantage-point, three sets of headlights which eventually stop nearby to disgorge many police and others, perhaps a dozen men in all. In the dimming light, we can just see one of the men is handcuffed. None of the faces are clearly seen. As the story now gets under way, we discover that two of the men are somehow involved in the death of another person, and efforts are now in progress to find a buried body.

So ... we settle back comfortably to watch how director Ceylan unravels the mystery for us: the who, what, where, how and why of all good mysteries. All well and good, except for one thing: the real story here is actually not about finding a body somewhere in these Anatolian hills, nor who it is, how and why the death happened, or even when.

The real story is certainly about a death, though - an almost unbelievably poignant, pointless death which is revealed and discussed between two of the officials as the whole search party continues to travel through the night, from place to place, up hill and down dale, hour after hour, until eventually, the accused man - who looks familiar - correctly pinpoints where the corpse lies. From there, the body's taken to the local hospital for autopsy and official report. The two accused are taken to the local lockup.

By this time, and no longer comfortable, we don't really care much about that issue, that sordid little side affair, whatever it was about. What's more important is the outcome between those two officials who wrestled, quietly vehemently, emotionally and psychologically about guilt, forgiveness and justice through much of the night and into the day. And all of which shows again the creativity and skill of Nuri Ceylan, his actors and his production team in creeping into viewers' minds so effectively. Again.

The setting is bleakly appropriate, recalling landscape imagery we saw in No Country for Old Men (2007); but this one uses that type of vista for most of the time. Moreover, the two movies each have no music soundtrack which, for this viewer, is always a welcome omission. The script and acting are simply superb.

Nuri Ceylan (and don't forget his wife, Ebru, who helps write and produce) is, IMHO, one of the best directors on this planet; arguably the best I've seen at mood-setting static and long takes, and facial close-ups; and, along with Ebru, brings some of the most innovative stories I've seen in all my 70 viewing years. Together, (if you'll excuse the hyperbole) they're the Turkish Dream Team of Cinema. Long may they continue to develop and produce the highest quality cinematic experience.

Recommended for all to see. Give this a well-deserved nine.

July 18, 2016.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Film about Anatolia, its Significance, Fate and Death

Author: l_rawjalaurence from London
16 April 2016

The echoes of Sergio Leone's classic ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) in the English title of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's epic movie BİR ZAMANLAR ANADOLU'DA (ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA) are deliberate. The bulk of the story takes place in Central Anatolia, some thirty or so kilometers from the capital Ankara. Gökhan Tiryaki's cinematography captures the barrenness of the landscape by day and by night; the scrubland, rugged fauna and flora and harsh, unfeeling terrain suggesting a place that resists human colonization. It is a myth, a state of mind as well as a physical place - as Naci the police officer (Yılmaz Erdoğan) observes at one point, it resembles a "fairytale" that will continue to exist even after all of us have been transformed into dust. Timelessness is its watchword; the only way in which humankind can adjust to it is to accept rather than alter the balance of nature. It can be threatening (especially when the wind whistles through the trees, disrupting the autumn leaves), or it can be accommodating, depending on how we view it.

Director Ceylan uses the landscape as the backdrop to a story that appears to follow a logical path and then frustrates us. A group of police officers, together with their suspects (Fırat Tanış, Burhan Yıldız), a doctor (Muhammed Uzuner) and a prosecutor (Taner Birsel) venture into the Anatolian wilds in the hope of discovering the body of a murder victim Yaşar (Erol Eraslan). The suspects are not quite sure of its whereabouts; but when they finally locate the body, it transpires that the police officers' assumptions prove catastrophically wrong.

But Ceylan is not really interested in the logic of the murder; what concerns him more is how humankind become so obsessed with the minutiae of their existences that they blind themselves to the power of the landscapes they inhabit. Prosecutor Nusret and doctor Cemal are representatives of two professions dedicated to reasonable explanations of all phenomena, but even they become exasperated at some of the police officers' attention to banal details, such as where the borders between two rural areas have been drawn. All of them are quite literally transfixed by the angelic appearance of the young girl Cemile (Cansu Demirci), who distributes tea among them with such aplomb that it seems as if she has been sent by the deity, rather than by her father the local Mukhtar (or headman) (Ercan Kesal). At this moment Nusret and Cemal realize - perhaps for the first time - that their world is governed by higher, unreasonable powers that transcend the quotidian realities of the law and the medical profession. It is part of their tragedy that they recognize this too late in their lives.

The film's ending is truly memorable, as Cemal conducts an autopsy on Yaşar's corpse, and consciously falsifies the evidence. But that issue is not really significant; what matters more is that he is a prisoner, both physical as well as mental, of his profession. He cannot take an innocent pleasure in the beauties of the landscape outside the hospital where he works, but remains bound to the factual realities of his job.

As with most Ceylan movies, sound assumes as much importance as vision: the howling of the wolves and the chirping of the crickets reminding us of the presence of a vast natural world outside that of the protagonists; and the truly macabre sound of the corpse being cut up and the blood flowing into a metal bowl, contrasted with the innocent shouts of little children playing in the yard outside Cemal's hospital.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA is a highly subtle movie, not least because of its clever use of names suggesting either some kinship between different characters (Cemal/ Cemile) or, perhaps more negatively, a meaninglessness associated with the practice of naming, especially when associated with the meaning of the Anatolian landscape. Ceylan's film might be long (150 minutes) but it represents a triumphant return to the themes of his earlier work.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

My second Ceylan's film after Three Monkeys

Author: lasttimeisaw from China
29 May 2014

After his latest feature WINTER SLEEP (2014) won Palme d'Or this year, there is no better timing to assess Nuri Bilge Ceylan's previous works, personally I was daunted by my first experience with his film, THREE MONKEYS (2008, 6/10), so until now I dare to stride a second step, here comes his 2011 crime-drama.

The opening scene is a staunch fixed shot with its focus shifting from blur to clarity (which is a regular ploy for Ceylan), we see three men is inside a house and chatting casually, after hearing a dog barking outside, one opens the door and feeds the dog, later we will know, he is the dead victim Yasar and the other two are suspects. Then sliding the opening credits, but this is not a conventional whodunit and don't expect Ceylan to expound on the nuts and bolts of the case, instantly the film embarks on its one-night and one-day account of how a convoy led by Prosecutor Nusret (Birsel) and Commissar Naci (Erdogan) locate the corpse with the confession of one of the said suspects Kenan (Tanis), and the subsequent autopsy conducts by Doctor Cemal (Uzuner).

The story is thick with ideas pertinent to the milieu of ethnic rural Turkey, the Anatolian part at least, as well as philosophical guidelines under a sweeping overtone about morality, innocence and compassion (for example, the falsehood in autopsy near the end, a drop of blood stain is a brilliant finishing touch to underlie the ambiguity, plus many symbolist additions are spread all over the film). As the search rambles on and sifted through their informal tête-à-têtes or implications suggested from random chitchats among other sidekicks in the team, audience will grasp the abiding burdens overpowering all 3 main characters, the prosecutor (his wife's mysterious self-prophetic death), the commissar (the beaten career fatigue with a sick boy in the family to tend) and the doctor (a failed marriage scars his life). But it is not all solemn and depressing, occasionally, dark humour crops up at the most inappropriate crunch, say, the Clark Gable remark.

These characters are deeply felt by actors, who constitute a magnificent ensemble including many lesser players, the two-handers between Uzuner and Birsel (there are some fungal infection on his cheeks, quite intrusive) are certainly among the best of the year when several bouts of their calmly contradictory theories about the aforementioned destined death beguilingly play out with etiquette and composure.

As a matter of course, in Ceylan's world, his outstanding visual scope is astonishing and even breathtaking in some unyielding long takes of Anatolia's topographic magnificence. Also, leaving blank is a philosophy roots deeply in Ceylan's cinema world, he offers viewers time to contemplate what they are watching and hearing, therefore, the total running time is stretched out, but in a very good way, if we have time, why don't we sit down and enjoy a decent meal with intervals for rumination instead of gulping down fast food with scare nutrients and barren aftertaste? Which is a more reasonable and salubrious way for avid cinema-goers.

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