Winter Sleep (Kiş Uykusu)

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Starring Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sözen and Demet Akbag
In UK Cinemas November 21st, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Winter Sleep won this year’s Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival and will be Turkey’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards. That right there is a lot to live up to, but luckily for Winter Sleep, it sprawls across three hours and fifteen minutes to try and do so.

A study of characters and classism is at the heart of Winter Sleep.  Set in rural Anatolia, the story follows Aydin (Bilginer), a former actor with a God complex who now runs a mountaintop hotel as he deals with his own social arrogance as a local newspaper columnist and town know-it-all.  At home, there is tension in his relationships with his wife Nihal and sister Necla.  This is all played out through epically long conversations, slowly revealing each of the characters in a realistic and poignant fashion.

In the town live the lower class tenants of Aydin including the religious Hamdi and his nephew Ilyas.  When Ilyas pays Aydin a visit, the difference in their social standing is hammered home as the women ask Ilyas, “What class are you in Ilyas?” referring to school grade.  Other metaphors are glaringly obvious such as when a wild horse is captured to be tamed and much like young Ilyas before he is caught when causing mischief, the horse falls in the river and is soaked through and through.  The lower class are clearly nothing but feral animals to the upper.

Aydin’s family have skewed perspectives as Necla and Nihal claim that people should be shamed into evil in order to be forced to feel remorse.  Fragile and insignificant things such as windows and dishes break and as meaningless as it is to them, Aydin and Necla want to take it out of the impoverished people’s wages.  For this family, boredom is a luxury but also their undoing.

A masterful and meaningful film, Winter Sleep is a difficult watch due to nothing else but its length.  In its current state, it will struggle to find a truly receptive audience as even I fought to stay awake for the very lengthy, conversationalist piece.  As a TV series this would have been perfection.  As a film, it is harsh and frustrating, but somehow still brilliant.

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