A dowdy university instructor Isa is an inattentive husband to his younger, TV-business wife Bahar. Self-absorbed and selfish, Isa only communicates in the most rudimentary way, while she, similarly, detaches into crying jags and juvenile behavior.
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Near the Bosporus, Eyüp and Hacer live in a modest flat with their son Ismail, in his twenties, who's doing poorly in his studies. Few words pass between them, and a past family tragedy brings sorrow daily. On a rainy night, Eyüp's boss Servet, a wealthy businessman who's entering politics, hits a pedestrian on a lonely road. He drives off and offers money to Eyüp if Eyüp will take the fall - probably a six-month sentence. Eyüp agrees, and while he's in prison, Ismail wants his mother to ask Servet for enough money to buy a car. Servet, in turn, desires Hacer. How can this play out?Written by
The three monkeys in the title of this film refer to both the classic "See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil" maxim and to the compact family of three depicted in the film. These three characters are Eyup, his wife Hacer, and their son Ismail. Each of these people seem to live by the maxim of the monkeys so much that they hardly talk to each other at all. Events unfold with a tragic inevitability after Eyup agrees to confess to a crime committed by his boss Servet to shield him from political disgrace in exchange for a large payoff. The shattered family then attempts to go on about their lives as if nothing had ever happened, even when more things do happen. Problems that normally would be relatively routine when faced by a united family thus become a devastating cycle that threatens to destroy their lives.
The material here is good but it likely would have devolved into histrionic melodrama in the hands of a less restrained director. Ceylan is a minimalist and as such he tends to allow the actions of the character to speak for themselves. In a way the lack of exposition puts the viewer in a similar situation to that of the family; we don't know exactly what they are thinking either.
Ceylan's greatest strength is in visuals: his landscapes look unlike anyone else's. The colors are often desaturated; I generally think this visual technique is a mistake but it looks great in his films. Like all Ceylan films, Three Monkeys is worth seeing for the indescribable visuals alone, but this film in particular also offers a perfectly executed family tragedy. Ceylan really outdid himself this time, this is one of the best films of the decade.
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