Acclaimed director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palm D’Or winning film is a quiet chamber drama that ironically takes the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster.
Set in the rocky landscape of Turkey’s Cappadocia region, Winter Sleep examines the seemingly simple life of Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a retired actor who runs a mountaintop hotel with estranged wife Nihal (Melisa Sözen) and his recently divorced sister Necla (Demet Akbag). While the family members live separate lives most of the year, the creeping winter forces them to interact inside the increasingly inhospitable indoor space. Long scenes filled with biting dialogue take over the film, revealing every character’s painfully truthful opinion about the others. Slowly, Winter Sleep chisels away each person’s comforting amour of self-delusion regarding love, charity, and life’s purpose.
Ceylan is a divisive figure; while some critics regard his films as slow-burning masterpieces, others view his work as self-indulgent art that suits a gallery better than a theatre. The latter group’s criticism is applicable here, as the three and a half hour running time makes for a tiring viewing experience. Interestingly, each time I wished the film was shorter I was presented with a scene so emotionally provoking that I became immediately happy the film had continued. This pendulum swing between tedium and delight became the defining feature of viewing Winter Sleep. After ruminating on the issue, there are no parts of the film that warrant obvious dissection, as the slow bits admittedly offer reprieve from draining dialogue-heavy scenes.
While it is certainly challenging, Winter Sleep so satisfyingly explores its characters’ motivations and vulnerabilities that by its end you feel like you’ve gotten to know a group of very real, very broken people.
Would I see this film again? No. Am I glad I saw it? Absolutely. (Elena Lowe)
Sunday, September 14th, 9:00PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4