Winter Sleep

Winner! Palme d'Or, Cannes. “Nuri Bilge Ceylan is at the peak of his powers with Winter Sleep, a richly engrossing and ravishingly beautiful magnum opus that surely qualifies as the least boring 196-minute movie ever made. This assured, accessible character study tunnels into the everyday existence of a middle-aged former actor turned comfortably situated hotel owner — and emerges with a multifaceted study of human frailty whose moral implications resonate far beyond its remote Turkish setting. Simultaneously vast and intimate, sprawling and incisive, and talky in the best possible sense.

“Something of a small-town celebrity due to his earlier acting career and the regular columns he now writes for the local newspaper, the grizzled, gray-haired Aydin leads a more idyllic life than most. Educated and wealthy, he runs a small hotel with his much younger wife, Nihal.

“The script steers away from run-of-the-mill plot mechanics in favor of a more revealing and no less absorbing immersion in the conversations — long, glorious, generously overflowing, superbly sculpted and acted conversations — among Aydin and his friends and family. Individual character is what interests Ceylan most here, and without registering as overly didactic, the moral positions debated in Winter Sleep cannot help but rouse similar questions among attentive viewers — about the decisions we make, the images we present to the world, and the degree of grace and empathy we choose to extend to those in need.

“It will prove entirely involving onscreen for viewers who love the increasingly rare spectacle of vibrantly conceived, fully fleshed-out human characters delving into the emotional muck and mire of their relationships. Aydin and Nihal may be speaking in rapid-fire Turkish, but viewers of any background will pick up on the seething language of emotional warfare, the relentless verbal thrusts and parries, and may well find themselves cringing in recognition.

“The film’s tone does shift and broaden unexpectedly in its third and final hour, as Aydin decides, for the sake of his marriage, to retire to Istanbul for the winter. The consequences of the decisions he and his wife make during their time apart are alternately humorous and wrenching, building to an emotional climax.

“Cinematographer, Gokhan Tiryaki, has produced another treasure trove of exquisite widescreen images, taking particular advantage of the Cappadocian landscape as it’s being pelted with snow. And yet, for all the region’s visual wonders — eerie cave formations, buildings cut directly into rock, wild horses galloping freely about — the supreme visual achievement of Winter Sleep may well be the beauty it finds in the crags and contours of its actors’ marvelously expressive faces.” - Variety


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