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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 9 people found the following review useful:

the name of the film is so powerful, unlike the film itself ...

Author: fgfbach from Turkey
14 July 2012

why "once upon a time in anatolia" ? why this name ? NBC (the director) should have better given some other names like "silent faces" or "a night in anatolia" or "anatolian piece" etc... for me the most bizarre thing is the name, its as if NBC shot the film to be able to put this charismatic name, but very honestly the film does not deserve the name, its about some Turkish guys looking after a murder case together with their private life matters & questions following them behind, the first quarter is very slow and we have to watch 3 cars coming and going for minutes, and we have to watch them till they disappear or till they come and stop, no any camera movement, no music, and we have to watch the same boring heineke's "funny games" scenes, why NBC likes to make it so boring ? its cinema, but its like i am in a theater, also, again the same style like Kasaba, Uzak...many conversations from the start till the end but nothing special inside, for me the most effective part starts when lights go out at the house where they stayed at night, and when the girl starts serving tea.. i did not like the acting, yilmaz erdoğan (the police) has no any difference from his other roles he played before, even the accent and manneers are just the same and other guys are not so successful (except fırat tanış, the murderer), i did not see any real nature play, i feel the camera everywhere, there are many scenes open to discussion, that is good because otherwise NBC would not be himself, its the best thing about him that he forces us to think... its very good to think about what happens and ask many "whys?" like the very end of the film.. i did not like the film, but its another different look in the Turkish cinema history... nothing special for me though ...

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4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

On-the-nose subtlety

Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
26 March 2012

Slow-paced, meditative look of life in the outskirts of living and searching, pundits assert. But because these words are often bandied about thoughtlessly, I feel it's useful to distinguish between hypnotic and meditative; the words are often used interchangeably but mean exact opposites. Meditation is not a trance, is not about purely sensual relaxation, mental lassitude, or an altered mind, it is unwavering gaze, clear mind. It is hard work and takes discipline. And since I've broached the subject, another distinction to go with it; meditation is not in the view, is not something you shape with lights and camera, it's entirely in the eye weaned from images - by definition selectively framed - to be one with every view. A certain view may abet concentration above another, but no more.

Long story short, just because a film is slow doesn't mean anything. The difference between these two notions is the difference between this guy and Tarkovsky. It's the difference between taking pictures and sculpting time.

So how to handle this film, that at first glance seems composed, resonant, transcendent? You have to invest concentrated time, trusting you're staying alert for a reason and it pays off down the road.

The blueprint is simple but potent, a long wandering through existential desert night with only the tiny headlights from cars to light a path through the thicket. The point is suitably abstract, someone was removed from existence and we drive around looking to surmise the order of things. But there is very little of that. Cars won't start. Lights go out in the middle of the night. No one is really interested. There is vexation, tiredness, bureaucracy. Sullen faces. One of the entourage is keeping track of distances, as though a mile more or less better explains the desert. The mayor of a small village is looking to coax funds for a new morgue, where old people can be kept dead long enough for uncaring relatives from abroad to pay their dues.

So a nightbound universe is the point, a little outside maps, with scarce light to guide vision and people routinely going through the motions. A story is recounted to that effect, a beautiful woman mysteriously dropped dead the exact minute she had predicted and for no reason at all. All things happen for a reason or they just do?

So far this would have been potent but small and already done to the extremities of gloom by Bela Tarr. But then it's morning, and the film turns a little more casual. There is more.

Here's the problem for me; there isn't. The whole smacks of a certain artless conceit. Film in long static sweeps and silence for whatever reason, because that's how you've seen masters do it, then hammer home every single utterance instead of letting it breathe itself out. When we discover who was really the woman in that story, the teller has to come back to the room and make sure we got it.

So let this be a lesson to young filmmakers. The material is fine and structured, but then again you can make a film out of the most trivial thing and make it swing either way, it doesn't make a difference. What does, is how you handle intermediate space.

Tarkovsky knows this; you drop anchors, say a visual statement or premise, and let your camera wander off so that all the space in the wandering is mapped to the anchor. The process is akin to coming up for breath and diving in again. But you have to leave the breaths to the viewer, and trust him to dive. Here is where concentration pays off. Coming back to explain the anchors or stressing them too heavily, as Ceylan does here, eliminates the need for both a distance and concentration. Suddenly it seems we have wandered off for no reason.

The difference is striking. With Tarkosky, you have to be still as new space is charted in the dark. You have to be air that air blows through, transparent in your own presence. Hear whispers with only the edges of listening. And you have to do that because it pays off. It sharpens.

It doesn't really matter here. It's any other drama filmed at half the pace. Eventually our doctor, the man of reason, wearily concedes to be part of the uncaring bureaucracy, letting cogs turn as they may.

The scene with the young daughter offering drinks in the windy night is magic though, and for this reason. A wordless exchange between faces.

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0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Interesting but slow-paced 'police procedural', as Turkish authorities investigate small town murder

Author: Turfseer from United States
27 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' first appears to be a police procedural, involving an investigation into a murder that occurred in a small town in central Turkey. A three car caravan consisting of Naci, the investigating police captain, his good-humored deputy, 'Arab', Cemal, the doctor who will eventually conduct the autopsy on the victim, Nusret, the district prosecutor, other officers, grave diggers, members of the gendamerie forces whose jurisdiction covers the rural area they're in and the two murder suspects, are all driving through the Anatolian steppes, searching for the body of the murder victim.

The director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, is really more interested in examining the lives of the men involved in the investigation into the murders, than dissecting the crime itself. The first half of the film takes place at night, with wildly atmospheric shots out in the 'sticks' near the Anatolian town of Keskin. Often, characters are speaking, but they're shot from a distance or in some cases, the dialogue is completely off screen and the camera focuses on other objects in the rural landscape. Despite the neat atmospherics, the plot moves along at a lumbering pace. Director Ceylan opts to draw things out, particularly in the scenes where the police question the victims as to the location of the body.

The most interesting characters appear to be the police themselves. There are amusing, routine conversations inside the car over the merits of Buffalo Yogurt or the officers' prostate problems. Quite realistically, Naci loses his temper with the main suspect, Kenan, who can't seem to remember where the body is buried. Naci begins to beat Kenan, but the Prosecutor intervenes and reminds Naci that everyone has to be done by the book.

The brooding Dr. Cemal contrasts nicely with the optimistic 'Arab' , when they have a conversation together, as the others are searching for the body at a particular location. Echoing a theme straight out of 'Ecclesiastes', Cemal points to the ultimate meaningless of life--a hundred years from now, all of us will be forgotten and everything we are now doing in the present, will no longer be relevant. Arab humorously objects, stating, 'Doctor, you've buried us already'. He goes on that their rather mundane activities of the investigation might prove to be fodder for a child's story for their grandchildren, dubbed 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia'.

After failing to locate the body, the group takes a break when they visit the Mayor of a local village, Mukhtar, who serves them food. Mukhtar is an interesting character, asking the Prosecutor whether he might intervene with local authorities so that the village might get some funding for municipal improvements. Suddenly there's a power failure and the Mukhtar calls for his young daughter to bring lamps, to light the room up. The group all seem to be mesmerized by the young girl's beauty as she serves them drinks, particularly Kenan, the prime suspect. Interestingly enough, the Mukhtar refers to his youngest daughter as an 'afterthought'.

After the encounter with the young girl, Kenan suddenly remembers where the body is and reveals the circumstances of the killing. It seems while drunk, he reveals to the murder victim that he is real father of the man's child. A fight ensues along with Kenan's feeble-minded brother, and the victim is killed. Because the body won't completely fit into the trunk, they're forced to hogtie him, and then drive out and bury the body. Daylight has broken, and Kenan finally leads the police to the body.

The Prosecutor also appears to be just as brooding as the grim-faced doctor. He tells a cryptic story to the doctor about a young woman who predicts her own death. It seems that the woman learns of her husband's affair with another woman during a drunken night of carousing. The woman seems to forgive the husband but then drops dead of a heart attack on the predicted date. The possibility of suicide is discussed and the doctor indicates that it could have been induced by a certain type of heart medication. The prosecutor admits that his father-in-law took the same medication and implies that the woman was actually his wife.

The film's denouement takes place back in town where the doctor conducts the autopsy on the victim at the morgue. During the autopsy, it appears that the victim was buried alive but the doctor opts to not mention this fact in his official report as he perhaps seeks to spare additional anguish for the victim's widow.

'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' starts off way too slow and ends the same way. The autopsy scene takes an incredibly long time and when everything ends, even with the revelation that the victim may have been buried alive, there's not enough dramatic twists and turns, to hold our interest.

'Anatolia' is on safe ground when it explores the ordinary lives of its common people (such as the police and the local mayor). The more upper class characters, the Doctor and the Prosecutor, are not as interesting, as they're loaded with 'angst' and are too downbeat, with all their brooding philosophizing and dark pasts. The Doctor is particularly a dull character, as we find out little about him, except for the fact that his divorce has turned him into a grim fellow indeed. The Prosecutor's story is interesting and I suppose it's a neat twist with the revelation that the woman who predicts her own death is his own wife. Nonetheless, the story is a two-edged sword, as the Prosecutor's character is defined by the downbeat story, and he becomes just as much as a brooding sad sack, as the doctor.

'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' is an interesting film worth seeing. But be prepared for the slow pace, which really diminishes its overall impact. Despite being a 'mixed bag', there's enough here to interest those film goers with multi-cultural perspectives.

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2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A Fine Minimalist Euro Art-House Film from Turkey

Author: paulscofield68 from New York
30 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For fans of Ceylan, this film is definitely recommended: it is long, slow, very well shot, and has some commendable scenes and themes. Yet, of Ceylan's four films: Distant, Climates, Three Monkeys, and this movie, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is merely good. Though parts of Three Monkeys are flawed (esp. during the first half), it's a strong film. And Distant is likely still the finest of the lot. I don't find this movie to be that much of a departure for Ceylan. Finally, as with all of his movies, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia requires repeat viewings to truly appreciate its depth and richness.

***Spoilers*** Is it me or did the guy playing the dead guy move his fingers a bit at one point? I could swear that his thumb or index finger twitched after they pulled him up from his shallow grave.

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3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Real Deal

Author: erkansirin78 from Turkey
7 January 2012

I anticipated when the movie was gonna start but it did not. There was no music, no surprise, no excitement, no fear etc. It flows calmly, no waterfalls at all. The characters are real, i know them very well. Because i am the child of that soil, Central Anatolia. Village headman's accent was marvelous, it is original. I thought he was performed by George Coloney at first sight. He is my favorite. That village house, hospitality, dinner, conversations, tea serving girl, police-prosecutor-gendarme NCO-drivers-workers-village headman relations are all consistent with the real life and original. There is no slightest exaggeration. To reflect Central Anatolian life more comprehensively, the director could have picked up other topics but buried man searching. Although the movie intended to show us real Anatolian life, it skipped some part of it. All characters are full of melancholy, there is no joy in it. It would be better they put some joy and music in it; bachelor party, sending off young men to military service etc. Even so I liked and rated 8 it. It is far above average Turkish movies. It has a style. But I still don't understand what is the production's connection with Bosnia and Herzegovina? All my respect...

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4 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Good and Frustrating In Equal Measure (also rather sluggishly paced--but don't let that stop you)

Author: Matthew Stechel ( from United States
1 March 2012

While i'm not entirely sure what the heck happened in the end---i enjoyed this film up to a point--that point being the ultimate revelation about the case that everyone in the movie is so doggedly and tirelessly pursuing. Seriously, do any of the characters here get to sleep at all??? Film contains a lot of top notch banter between all the principle actors--and there's even a nice Clark Gable reference right smack in the middle! If you like your cop movies laced with banter--this one should be right up your alley as its probably 50 percent banter! That's not a bad thing tho when you think about the fact that this is a rather solemn film about the investigation of a murder--provided they can actually find the body that is! Between the amusing banter and the fact that the cops' main suspect can't quite remember where the body is, a novice editor could probably cut a trailer of this to make it look like a comedy--of course that would be wrong since its very much not a comedy. All the banter helps keeps a nice wry tone in the film's first half-- very very much alleviating the rather grim mood and strongly helping the very slow pace move along decently enough throughout the first half--that grim mood sustains but the pacing drops significantly throughout the entire rest of the film just in time for what are supposed to be revelations upon revelations but brother i could not tell you what exactly transpires plotwise from the blackout in the restaurant scene on.

The film actually reminded me a great deal of Boon Jong Ho's "Memories Of Murder" with its endless scenes of cops and officials thinking they have the right suspect only to be stymied and frustrated throughout the rest of the film---and if you know that film--you'll understand the frustration I felt upon watching this. There's a good suspense movie here--if they could just clarify what's actually happening!!!! (If all of you aren't familiar with that one this film also reminded me a great deal of 2001's "The Pledge"--no, not that movie's ending, that movie's ending is not i repeat not copied here thankfully, but the film's mournful tone and pacing put it squarely in the same genre-- the anti police proceedural if you will.) So basically if you're a fan of frustrating but well made "anti" cop films you'll dig this. I'm actually looking forward to seeing it again one year--just so i can know for sure if that ending was in fact an ending.

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18 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

A great first half which is equal to 90 minutes approx. but an incomplete and at times aversive last half prevent it from being a fully satisfying film ultimately,

Author: DoksanlarSinemasi from Türkiye (The Turkish Republic)
26 September 2011

It seems that the first half of Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da was great in every sense, it was like Nuri Bilge Ceylan, his wife and his friends or his crew had attempted some new editing methods and some ideas escort it and they have delivered it successfully. There is a mysterious and sometimes creepy story, the cast is exciting, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's direction and photography are the same as always, great, the editing is flawless, but a few flaws in the script and the last half of the film prevent it from being a masterpiece. Nuri Bilge Ceylan knows the fact that only a beautiful photography and mesmerizing images are not enough to make a movie good, at least I hope he does, because simply a good movie is a combination of a lot of elements. Therefore, this time he put much more dialogs in his movie, which support the characters and the film itself. We can say that the movie is divided into two parts, night and day, so the night part is excellent, there are some unforgettable shots also, briefly an unforgettable cinematic and artistic journey, but when the movie comes to the end, the problems start to occur as well. The second half starts by an excavation sequence, a few village shots and events follow it, so far so good, but then a long, very long 'medical' sequence (I used that term to avoid spoilers) starts which ruins the movie sort of. There are several reasons for that. Firstly, that sequence should have been the development part or should be just a transition part instead of being the final part. If we consider the 'night part' (the first half) as the introduction, then the second half ('the day part') should have been the development, it means, there should have been a conclusion part, in other words, a third part should have been added and the movie should have been a little longer (for example 180 minutes, a complete three hours) However, then the movie would have been too long for some people? All these are because I felt like the movie was incomplete after a very, very long introduction. I would want to see Yılmaz Erdoğan's character more on the screen for example. Honestly, I would want to see some other characters more on the screen after that "exhausting night and day". Especially their psychological conditions after the event. By the way, about Yılmaz Erdoğan's character, may be the character's personality is not very suitable for Yılmaz Erdoğan's character, himself, but that's OK. Secondly, after a very detailed and very long introduction part (the first half, 90 minutes), the second half was like just a long sequence rather than a satisfied second half. This was the key problem of the film! Like the director's previous film, Three Monkeys, Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da suffers from 'plot insufficiency' in the second half. Two or three scenes or sequences become the development and the conclusion. Because, too much focus on this medical event by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. And thirdly, Nuri Bilge Ceylan gets his movie ended by an aversive and highly disturbing final and I have no idea why he has done that! What were all those sounds and nauseous moments? In my opinion, this beautiful film should have ended by a beautiful shot, not by some annoying sounds after those images. As a result, Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da is a must see film for the fans of the director and art house film lovers, but it could have been much better by a more powerful and longer second half.

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Little more than an aimless long drive in the dark

Author: SnoopyStyle
25 June 2014

Kenan and his mentally handicapped brother confess to a murder but they can't find the site. The local police drive the duo around in the middle of the night but just can't find anything. It becomes a night of aimless driving in a rural landscape. About halfway through the movie, the sun is finally up, and they find the body.

This is a movie of the monotony of a murder investigation. It's about the small stuff. It's not all high drama. There are a lot of long silent scenes. That's kind of the point. It's the in-between moments. It reminds me of a Tarantino movie where he takes the moments in between the big action to have some fun. Except in this, the dialog is pedestrian and boring. It revels in how boring the dialog becomes. The scenery has that desolate beauty. It's lovely to look at but it's too tiresome and long. It's not something I could recommend.

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Interesting too long a bit prentious

Author: fellini_58701 from United States
25 May 2014

Nuri Bilge Ceylan just won a Palm D'Or for "Winter Sleep" at Cannes 2014 so I felt compelled to watch for a second time "Once Upon A Time In Anatolia" i didn't care to much for it the first time around but what i liked about was the beautiful cinematography by Gokhan Tiriyaki. I still feel the same about it now , a few things about the story popped in my mind i don't quite understand, number one the police, prosecutor, inspector and grave digger all go on a night road trip with two brothers who apparently confess to a murder and buried the body out in the middle of nowhere, one of the brothers was drunk and the other mentally challenged, At night wouldn't it be wiser to search during the day? and number 2 how drunk was the suspect to even drive half way across the country along with his menatlly challenged brother to even bury the body. It just doesn't make sense to me. The long shots extended dialogue these characters carry are never interseting. I love the cinema i love 3 hour films with limited dialogue to name a a few Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse, Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice and Ermano Olmi's The Tree Of Wooden Clogs there was something special involving and intriguing about those films. I think prentious snobbery drives critics and the jury at cannes in 2011 to reward this film and i hope Winter Sleep is surprises me.

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3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Once Upon a Sleeper

Author: (AfroPixFlix) from United States
15 April 2014

The film's McGuffin is the search for where a body lies, and the raison dêtre is just…hmm, good question. Oh my, what a pitiful film. There are endemic limitations here that much better films scale handily, so don't be bullied into thinking this must be good art, despite what the critics say. AfroPixFlix had a foreboding feeling when the beautiful cinematography graced the screen during the very first scene. It featured three friends saying jovial but incomprehensible things to each other inside a dingy room. A gorgeous ensuing shot has one character standing outside with a barking dog and ambient traffic noise. These were portents to the strengths and weaknesses of the entire very, very long film right away. Great scenery and cinematography, but abysmal script writing, if there was a script. The thing just plods along to demonstrate that watching paint dry can be scenic if you have the right lighting and paint color, and maybe a stiff shot of milky and potent raki. If you treasure rustic Turkish countryside settings in darkness and dawn, then view this film without sound or subtitles. Perhaps go as far as placing a weather- beaten picture frame around your screen and throwing a Constantinoplean-themed party. Opa! Your guests might enjoy the sights, but the plot? How forgettable, if ever grasped. How introspection leads to isolation and realization of how whole classes of society are repressed? Too obfuscated by director Ceylon here. Rather, his unavoidable fixation is with a plethora self- absorbed Turkish public servants who crowd into cars to investigate a murder that really isn't a mystery at all. The only mystery is why AfroPixFlix wasted 157 minutes of precious life watching this. AfroPixFlix shovels about two kilos of dates and a forkful of dirt on this funereal Turkey.

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