Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) Poster

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A mandala in disguise of a murder
wl3236 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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Something else
eceakaydin16 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
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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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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A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Police Procedural that highlights the complexities associated with the human psyche
murtaza_mma10 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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Great director, great film
ivanxviii30 October 2018
Tags like a cop movie, police drama, detective thriller, murder mystery are absolutely misleading here. This film is none of the above. The ongoing police investigation is just a background of the portrayal of life in a provincial Turkish town and rural areas around it. This life is dreary, dull and boring but Ceylan shows it so masterfully you are totally captivated by the narrative. The people are talking dreary, dull and boring things but those are their everyday matters. There's no grandiloquence, no prettification, no message, no hidden meaning, only Ceylan's perfect realism, his trademark. For completists - the prosecutor's story about his wife committing suicide is borrowed from a Chekhov's short story The Examining Magistrate
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On human condition
Seyirci4 November 2011
This movie does not betray any of Ceylan's qualities that were manifested in his earlier work. Besides, it reflects a growing self-confidence in portraying the people of his "beautiful and lonesome" country.

The ingeniously crafted personal stories of the characters is the film's biggest strength even surpassing the masterful photography. The suspect's motive to commit the murder is enigmatic, but perhaps a taboo keeps it that way. The doctor from the big city has reasons of the heart to be voluntarily stuck in this poor and dysfunctional existence. The public prosecutor's mind is preoccupied by a heartbreaking personal drama. The policeman desperately tries to cope with his own domestic tragedy. The village administrator wants to secure his third term by financing a fancy morgue in a village which does not even have uninterrupted electricity. The gendarme sergeant is obsessed with metrics and borders. So on and so forth. A murder investigation physically brings them together and they do a lousy job. Like ordinary people experience every day.

Ceylan's unique and witty touch makes you think. And thinking cannot be rushed.
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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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Cosmoeticadotcom1 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is a great film, and I want to end this review of it by returning to the idea that this is Ceylan's greatest film, and explaining why. Aside from the fact that, technically, its screenplay is the deepest and broadest, in terms of including great dialogue, and narrative ellipses, as well, the film has the most roiling narrative, and the best example of this is the fact that Ceylan employs, better than all but a few films, the Hitchcockian idea of the MacGuffin- or the seeming narrative element that propels the art (and its protagonist(s)) whereas, in reality, the real element that is central to the art is something else. Some critics have noticed this element in the film but have targeted the wrong MacGuffin, claiming that the murder itself is the MacGuffin, but it's clearly not, as the body is found 90 minutes into the film- over an hour from its end, therefore there has to be another element that acts as the de facto carrot for the narrative impulse. It is, like the claims that the film is a police procedural, simply false. The murder merely provides the milieu of the film for it becomes clear, within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film that the characters are not really driven by the murder, and most, in fact, seem bored or disgusted or tired of it. They each have their own reasons for being there- mostly duty or remuneration. The real MacGuffin comes into the film in the form of the aforementioned gorgeous woman tale that rapts the prosecutor and doctor. It enters the film at the time that, in more plot driven works, a 'big revelation' would be due. As would be expected in a lesser work, we get hints that the murder of the dead man is something more than portrayed, for we get a comment from the prosecutor about how women get their revenge on men, we get an even earlier comment on the negative nature of the dead man, implying that his murder was somehow justified (and may explain the doctor's later cover up of the actual cause of death re: the dead man's being buried alive), and we get to suspect that the dead man may have been abusive to the wife, which may have culminated in her presumed affair with Kenan- if he is to be believed that he is the father of the widow's child. But, unlike a Hollywood film, none of this is spelt out linearly, but implied, requiring Negatively Capable abilities to thread it together. But, the main point is that, sans the gorgeous woman trope, the viewer would not have the insights into those characters re: their own failures in sexual relationships, and their abilities and weaknesses in doing their own jobs. The film raises ambiguity to an artistic level because it's not ambiguity for its own sake, but as a tool to craft character, to move plot, and to deliver a philosophic message that goes beyond platitudes of depth and mystery and the like. In short, Ceylan learned from his Three Monkeys error of relying on a formula to get to the nub of a matter, and instead dive full bore into existence itself, to pull character out, and in turn craft narrative from. It is in this taffy twist of the artist that his art rose to new heights, and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia is a candy to stain the tongue. Here's hoping that future twists augur even greater rise.
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A textbook definition of the word "engrossing"
jdennist7 April 2012
Warning: 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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Either scenario or acting or images are excellent
umutmorkoc14 January 2012
Warning: 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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Turkish csi
billcr124 March 2012
This road trip begins with a procession of three cars, two suspects, a police chief, a prosecutor, a doctor, and various other law enforcement personnel. They drive through the darkness, stopping at various points with the two criminals to find a body that has been buried.

During the search, the group turns philosophical, discussing topics as varied as prostate trouble to the mortality of man.

The main suspect leads the lawmen on a wild goose chase from one barren field to the next with no body to be found. They stop at a man's isolated home on the journey and are served a sumptuous dinner of lamb and honey by a local while discussing family matters and accomplishments. When the electricity is knocked out by the wind, the host's beautiful daughter, lit by lamplight, serves the men, as they ponder her bleak future.

At daybreak, the posse continue to look for the buried victim, as the mystery goes on, Csi style.

This is a deep and meditative work of art with a brilliant script which ponders the meaning of life at every level. It is also about the choices we make, and the complexities of the last one made by the doctor at the end of the film.
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Where what is revealed is not at all what we expect....
RJBurke194218 July 2016
Warning: 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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Gorgeous and poetic film with suspense around every corner and a warmth for its network of characters.
Sergeant_Tibbs26 June 2013
On an aesthetics level, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is no less than an epic. With long drawn out wide angles containing all the action, there's a beautiful desolate nature contained within them, looming over the characters constantly. While it's lush in visuals, the sound design is deliberately sparse, just like the story. While the story seems too simple for how long the search is spread out in the duration of the film, it's more concerned with the characters, favouring the police over the criminals. They are what make the film so watchable despite its pace with a colourful ensemble of characters. While the film is certainly cold, Ceylan has a warmth for the characters, who are at times funny and at others profound. The film is about the search for truth and while it tiptoes over a resolution in the story, it leaves the audience to think about its ideas and its subtle ways of approaching them. While the police want to find the truth in their lives, in the case and other things, they're shown deliberately misquoting the truth in books. It's a very interesting perspective on how it's impossible to get the truth out of the past, there's only interpretation. It's a great poetic film with suspense around every corner. Certainly one of the best of the year.

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A very different crime drama
Tweekums13 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens in the dark as three cars pull up in a remote part of Turkey. The occupants get out; one of them asks another 'where is it buried'; the thinks he knows but isn't sure. After a while he decides it is the wrong location; it was light when he buried it and he was drunk so finding it won't be easy. The men argue and eventually decide to check another location but once again they have no luck. As they drive around we are introduced to the characters; policemen, the prosecutor, a doctor and two criminals. We also learn what they are looking for: the body of a man they murdered and buried. As the night passes they decide they must rest in a local village; the next day they continue the search and find the body before returning to town to perform an autopsy and lock up the killers. In the background to the search they chat about ordinary things and the prosecutor starts to tell an anecdote about a woman who said she would die on a specific day and did; at first it just seems like a slightly spooky story but by the end it proves to be quite tragic.

I don't think I've seen a crime drama quite like this before; there is no mystery as the killers are known, there is no action apart from driving around and a bit of digging, there isn't even a sense of danger… all these things and the fact that it is nearly three hours long might make it sound frightfully tedious but it isn't. It is a fine character study; as the time passes we get to know the characters; in particular the doctor, the prosecutor and the senior police officer. The cast appeared to do a fine job although as I had to rely on subtitles I can't judge their performances as well as a Turkish speaker could. The run time almost put me off watching but it never seemed to drag despite the fact that there were quite a few moments where nothing much was happening; this did serve to build atmosphere though. If you want to watch some thing rather different I heartily recommend this.
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Who said cinema should be easy?
octopusluke17 December 2012
There are not enough superlatives in the world that would let me aptly describe Once Upon a Time In Anatolia. A Grand Jury prize winner at Cannes, the sixth feature from Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a deeply involving existential crime-drama. Both bleak and beautiful, the picture is just so rich, the words so stunning and the acting beyond comparison.

At it's crudest, Once Upon a Time In Anatolia is a film about redemption, mercy and misery. It starts at dusk, with a group of men venturing into the Turkish countryside to find the body of a murder victim. It's an odd group, comprised of a police chief and his officers, a public prosecutor, a doctor, some diggers, guards, the confessed killer Kenan (Ferat Tanis) and his mentally challenged younger brother, Ramazan (Burhan Yildiz). Driving across the barren landscape, Kenan is awfully reticent, unable to recall the exact place where the body is kept. He also doesn't seem like the conventional killer: timid, polite he's even reduced to tears on three separate occasions throughout this torturous night. Whether they are tears of regret or genuine sorrow is up to the audience to judge.

The night drags on into dawn, and the men grow increasingly frustrated. Taking respite in the shanty house of a village mayor during an electrical power cut, the group drop in and out of sleep, haunted by an image of the mayor's beautiful, candlelit daughter. When morning breaks, the search for a body becomes a hunt for something far more intangible. Beneath the desolation, car headlights, expressionistic shadows and treacherous ravines is the pursuit for masculinity and the buried secrets the men are carrying on heavy, tired shoulders.

What's so striking in Anatolia is Ceylan and his co-writers – brother Ebru Ceylan and Ercan Kesel (who plays the village mayor) – are able to shift so gracefully between profound, poetical dialogue, to the slapstick, the mystical, satirical and the genuinely haunting. Very early on in their pursuit, some of the men irreverently natter in the car about the difference between buffalo yoghurt and cheese; followed by the more prescient, harrowing image of a face carved into rock, a totem of sorts from the ancient tribe who once roamed this squalid land. Even at a staggering 2.5 hours running time, Ceylan has an incredible ability to keep us enthralled and guessing where the film will take us next.

Just like Iranian maestro Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry, and the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men, location in Anatolia becomes it's own sort of character. With the beautiful cinematography of Gökhan Tiryaki, one of the film's most memorable moments is it's smallest: two long takes of an apple falling off a tree, rolling across the desert and floating away down a stream, to the sounds of the Prosecutor and stern police chief arguing. Perhaps it's symbolism on the brevity of life in contemporary, emasculated Turkey, or maybe it's just a pretty little aside from the heavy drama elsewhere. Whilst Ceylan is first and foremost a storyteller, his intricate framing makes us look at the world anew, not dissimilar from activist Godfrey Reggio's visual essays, The Qatsi Trilogy.

Subtle framing meets the subtle delights of the on screen performers. Whilst there is no central character, Taner Birsel is so captivating as 'The Prosecutioner'; a man trying to document the truth of the murder case, whilst wrestling with the unspoken truths of his past. He's also very funny too, breaking the dour tone with jokes about how he was once told he resembled Clark Gable. Poetical once again, even as the most distinguished member of the group, he can't help but wish he were somewhere else other than in this purgatorial situation.

Yes, Anatolia is long and moves at a glacial pace, the middle act is confusing and the Turkish political allegory will certainly slip through the brains of the uninitiated (i.e. me). It's difficult cinema, but why should art cinema be easy?

Ceylan has an unmatched ability to render down the audience, to test us, and even lead us to question his own creative intentions. Once we get to the film's revealing, yet still ambiguous closing moments, he reels us back in, the credits roll, and it's impossible to deny his genius.

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Stunning and original.
jamesmartin199516 August 2012
When we go to the movies, our usual expectations as viewers consist of being given an interesting plot, to be taken on a journey that (hopefully) enthrals us and provides us with good entertainment. In terms of crime drama, if the plot swings on a murder and a police investigation, we naturally expect to discover who the murderer was, the motive for the crime, how it took place (often revealed in clever twist endings) and how the problems it has created for the characters are resolved.

'Once Upon A Time In Anatolia' is not nearly so simple or conventional. It is, in the most basic of terms, a police procedural. Taking place over one night and the following day, we see the local police, together with a prosecutor who has been dragged from home on the promise that together, they will uncover the corpse of a murdered man, as his killers have confessed and are willing to lead them to the body.

Whereas most filmmakers would spend a great deal of time contriving dialogue and scenarios to explain to their viewers how this crime has occurred and what the reasons for it were, Nuri Bilge Ceylan is not interested in the slightest about this. What he is interested in is exploring how investigations really work: any hint of melodrama is stripped away, to leave only the arduous monotony of the job, the frustrating setbacks and errors, the tired, formal and impersonal language with which crimes have to be reported, and the emotionally draining effects that these combine to impose on the people left to pick up the pieces after a murder.

It is a long, difficult film, and yet for the whole of its running time, it is never anything less than fascinating. Ceylan's idea was an inspired one to begin with, but in other, less confident hands, this movie could easily have been a heavy-handed, soporific exploration of ennui and disillusionment. These two themes are central in the film, but what I wasn't expecting at all was the amount of satiric, deadpan humour – perfectly timed and strangely in keeping with the feel of the film – and the poetry in the visuals. I will not describe their brilliance here, but leave them for you to discover for yourselves.

On the surface, this film is painstakingly slow and strictly unsensational, but the genius of 'Once Upon A Time In Anatolia' lies in the details, and in how subtly and realistically it reveals the inner characters of its protagonists – their frustrations, personal tragedies and cynicism. Throughout the course of the movie, we see one man in particular make the sad progression into the masculine, passionless disillusionment that accompanies loss and age, and which many of his male companions have sunk into already.

Perhaps my favourite part of the film is a sequence in which the team, exhausted for the night, and in need of food and shelter, decide to rest at a nearby village, which is slowly but surely being forgotten by the world around it. There are three stunning scenes in this section: one involving a conversation over dinner between the mayor of the village and his guests, a poetic sequence about beauty and passion, and finally a private, tortured conversation between the prosecutor and a doctor, which will later lead to a painful revelation about the prosecutor's past. And this is what I understand the movie to really be about, once we have delved beyond the ennui and disillusionment: love, time and change.

'Once Upon A Time In Anatolia' is a strange, superb film – at once utterly distinctive, original, mystical, closely observed and quietly moving. You will need patience to sit through it, but believe me, that patience is rewarded in spades. In my humble opinion, this unassuming, eccentric piece of work is one of the best films of the year so far.
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Brilliant Film about Anatolia, its Significance, Fate and Death
l_rawjalaurence16 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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A Memorable Film Experience
georgep5320 May 2012
Warning: 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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An Effective Police Procedural!
nairtejas14 February 2013
I was mesmerized at the screenplay and camera-work of one of the best movie of 2011. I mean, the movie is so intricate, detailed and specific that I intend to watch it again.

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia riddles, thrills and adds humor to it while we think it is a drama. Horrid scenes enter the play after the first half and the autopsy sequence at the end is the best scene of all.

Arguably the best acting performances by a cast in recent times and I was totally amused by the way the actors portrayed their deep characters, especially the inspector, the prosecutor and the doctor. Bravo! Plus, the second story which the prosecutor & doctor discuss adds up to the mystery.

I recommend this to everyone for its authenticity and facts cuddled up beautifully in tale spanning about a murder. Wonderful cinema!

WATCH OUT FOR: the autopsy sequence, acting and locales.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Language: Harsh | Sex | No | Nudity: Strong | Smoking : Strong | Foreplay & Mouth-Kiss: No | Violence: Strong | Gore: Mediocre
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a modern masterpiece of restrained cinema that will resonate with you long after...
d-JCB6 July 2012
one of my Melbourne International Film Festival bankings from last year, a session i attended but was deep in miff zombie mode and slept thru most of it... glad i finally caught it again as this is a masterpiece of modern cinema, comparable to the likes of Robert Bresson, Krzysztof Kieslowski or Carl Theodor Dreyer... but in more recent times Asghar Farhadi... this is a film of absolute restraint over the 2 1/2 running time, with cinematic shots of the beautiful Turkish countryside, on the base of the anatolian steppes... dialog is sparse, no real protagonist or even motive is clear from the outset... sounds like a nightmare film for most, but if you have patience, this will reward you 10 fold, cause with the subtle moments throughout, you are dumbstruck when a certain moment happens of utmost importance to the story...

so on the story, it's about one night and morning in anatolia, 2 locals confess to a murder and a search team are on the lookout for the body... but as the night progresses, the conversations change from funny and fresh, to fatigue fuelled frustration and anger, raw emotions and violence, deeper / philosophical tangents, which tie all into the big questions of morality. while th investigation progresses, it becomes the backdrop to these more deeper / complex issues of human behaviour... where we are all guilty of some moral unjust, where the past controls the present, the surroundings engulf the passengers like the plague and you are left wondering who is really the "bad person" here... the murderer(s), the violent / erratic chief, the ignorant but methodical prosecutor, or the pessimistic doctor... or even the pedestrian cop who talks about "it's survival of the fittest", "everyone out here has a gun"...

this is a film full of double standards, where one moment you a person is accused for being inhuman, but does the same act 5 mins afterwards.... it's also a film about absolute truth or fact, and the truth we decide to accept, cause it suits our purposes or comfort zone... this is human nature, and that is why this film is so amazing, with this restraint throughout, it lets you absorb these dynamic characters in this minimalist Turkish outback, and ponder that we are all like this to some degree, and no one is really better or worse than anyone else... we all fall victim of circumstance and want the easy way out... as one said "it's survival" and that's what we're programmed to do, live and try to be "content"... while trying to push aside the guilt, the past, and look forward to the future with your eyes closed...

‎Nuri Bilge Ceylan is an absolute masterful director, and this his most mature work to date proves he's a voice to be listened to with great detail... after watching this film, i read so many reviews to try and discover more of it's secrets, while watching it again to go over those moments that if you missed, the whole film would lose it's power... but at the same time, like life it's a puzzle, there's so many moments where you go "did that just happen!?" but you may catch the next one... or on 2nd viewing or 3rd or 4th you'd get even more...

so with all this said and done, this masterpiece is a must see for a more matured cinema audience... this is not CSI Miami, more like CSI in anatolia, but at a laid back but steady pace that builds right till the final conclusion, which gives some clarity, but really just raises more questions and makes you ponder this film as a whole long after you've watched it...

im sittng on 9/10 but cant wait got give this another go in the near future... a masterful effort that deserved the Grand Prix at Cannes and so much more, cause this is what real cinema is about... that resonates with you long after...
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One Of The Best Films Of The Decade
CinemaClown20 May 2020
Peering through the monotony of everyday lives to pose larger questions about purpose & existence, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a quiet, somber & reflective mood piece that finds beauty in the mundane and expertly employs its police procedural structure as a narrative framework to unearth deeper existential insights.

Co-written & directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the plot covers a night & day in the lives of people involved in a murder investigation but doesn't adhere to any of its genre's conventions. Ceylan's composed & controlled direction keeps a firm check on every single aspect, and provides an expansive canvas for its characters to develop.

From the distant shots of the vast Anatolian steppes to detailed close-ups of its characters, Cinematography definitely stands out, whether it's the images filmed during nighttime or captured in daylight. Editing is methodical throughout, deliberately unfolding the plot at a silent & glacial pace. And sincere performances from its entire cast makes sure that the interest is never lost.

Overall, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is an ingeniously crafted & patiently narrated drama that presents the Turkish filmmaker in total control of his craft and, despite its intimidating 157 mins runtime, manages to be an utterly absorbing & engrossing experience. Its slow & undramatic approach can be too frustrating for some but for the rest, it is as rewarding a film such as this can get. One of the best films of the decade.
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KeremUlucay28 January 2020
I think Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is the best film of Nuri Bilge Ceylan. It is a brilliant masterpiece which can change people's perspective of cinema. Also, it is one of the best films of 2010s, internationally. Long live Ceylan!
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You move with the movie while tracking the events
fatihaksel-222-8502063 October 2017
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, is an extraordinary director who uses the color spectrum and composes the scenes with emotions and feelings. I pretty much liked the movie. I watched it during a chilly night, and I can say that it felt like it was really happening.

Especially the Mukhtar scene is fantastic, the mosaic of the actors, the use of light are really really fantastic.
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Nuri Bilge Ceylan should better study for the detective side of the movie
hakanmilyon31 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Generally i really liked the movie and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's directing.

For me the strong side of the Nuri Bilge Ceylan's movies comes from his passionately love of nature.Therefore he uses outside and nature's sounds loudly.Also from his visual aspect to nature scenes, he gives them a value like a painter's painting.

Scenes have many allusions for explaining Nuri Bilge Ceylan's meaning. Also the conversations have many clues about the story but viewer's must know how to read them.Story mainly tell about the people behind the masks.All the main characters have problems with women.

But one conflict about the movie is detective investigation doesn't satisfy csi viewers.İ mean if a commissar and prosecutor find a body with his hands tied in the ground, they should firstly suspect of someone be buried live instead of asking to murderer why he tied his hands.They should also looking for to find evidence(some soil) in victim's mouth or nose.Also just before the autopsy prosecutor should check victim's mouth and nose.
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ostayusuf5 August 2018
This film was so good. Because players have made their role so successfully. Everything that they've done, were coming from their heart. Also that's totally demonstrate the Anatolian people. Their behaviours, their talking style and their gestures were really good. And also in the film, there is something especially emphasised. I don't want to say, but these are really good.
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