Winter Sleep– review by Frank L.
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Writers: Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Stars: Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sözen, Demet Akbag
Living in a remote rural, almost lunar-like, hilly location in central Anatolia Aydin (Haluk Bilgur) is the local big wig and to an extent the lord of all he surveys. He is a retired actor, writes a regular article for a local newspaper and his general well-being is fortunately cushioned by the ownership of an eclectic hotel encased cave-like into the mountainside and a number of properties whose tenants are far further down the economic scale. In his world he is on the top of the pile. However he is far from secure within himself and the society in which he revolves. That society consists principally of his recently divorced sister, his much younger wife and his steward who primarily deals with his tenants.
He has but a remote relationship with all of them. While on the surface he is engaging, on examination, he appears to be somewhat lacking, ungenerous of spirit. Aydin’s aloofness with his tenants is illustrated at the beginning when a small boy, the son of a tenant whose family has fallen on hard times, throws a stone at the window of his 4×4 which shatters it. This act of violence is the tip of an iceberg of resentment which the film slowly reveals. It illustrates that the serenity of Aydin’s life is precarious. His sister is more conscious of their privileges and debates with him perhaps there is another way of proceeding other than the way he is doing with his tenants. Meanwhile his young wife, who is a remote figure in his existence, tries to make herself relevant in this cage of a society in which she has become incarcerated by covertly trying to start an educational project for children in the area. He is dismissive of this activity and angered by it. But underlying the entire is his own insecurity.
There is a great deal to enjoy in this elegantly shot film. The mountainous location, the eclectic hotel set into the mountain, the contrast between the comfort of bohemian chic of Aydin and his privileged family and the pinched necessities of the every-day struggle of those who surround them. At all times the acting is of high calibre with Haluk Bilgur as Aydin being outstanding. Less satisfactory, in fact tedious was a drunken argument towards the end of the film which lasted well over ten minutes but seemed interminable which like all drunken arguments was deeply unenlightening. The script was written by Ceylan and his wife Ebru and it is difficult to know why they chose to include such a tedious scene. In general the film would have been better if it had been reduced in length. It is over three hours long. That is its weakness, Winter Sleep is a serious portrayal of the reality of existence of Aydin and of his wife and to a lesser extent that of his sister. Each of them is a flawed being but Ceylan portrays them with a certain dignity which makes their concerns understandable even if none of them are particularly likeable. The issues which they confront are not uncommon and the acting by the entire cast of their individual roles provides the reason why the film is worth seeing.