There’s a small ho­tel

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

Win­ter Sleep, drama, not rated, in Turk­ish and English with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles Win­ter Sleep is a quiet but strik­ing character study in which the weight of rather mun­dane events that un­fold over the course of the film bear heav­ily on its pro­tag­o­nists, in part be­cause there’s not much else go­ing on. This is not so much a crit­i­cism as an ac­knowl­edg­ment that this slow-mov­ing and well-acted drama of­fers a thought­ful ex­plo­ration into su­per­fi­cial­ity. The set­ting is the ho­tel Othello, lo­cated in the moun­tain­ous re­gion of cen­tral Ana­to­lia. There, Aydin (Haluk Bil­giner), an ag­ing for­mer ac­tor, is the pro­pri­etor. He lives at the Othello with his young wife, Ni­hal (Melisa Sözen), and his re­cently di­vorced sis­ter, Ne­cla (Demet Ak­bag). Aydin rents out prop­erty in the nearby vil­lage. When win­ter comes, and the three are snowed in, they fill their evenings with long con­ver­sa­tions about such top­ics as the na­ture of evil and whether it’s bet­ter to re­sist or sub­mit to it — a theme that runs through the film. An­i­mos­ity among the small crew’s mem­bers grows as the win­ter days stretch on.

This lat­est film from Turk­ish di­rec­tor Nuri Bilge Cey­lan, known for Once Upon a Time In Ana­to­lia (2011), won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Early on in Win­ter Sleep, a young child throws a rock through the win­dow of Aydin’s car. This leads to an un­com­fort­able con­fronta­tion with the boy’s fa­ther, Is­mail (Nejat Isler), a ten­ant fac­ing evic­tion be­cause of un­paid rent. What Aydin, in his self-ab­sorp­tion, doesn’t re­ally get is that most of the vil­lagers, in­clud­ing his wife, do not par­tic­u­larly like him. Ni­hal makes a diplo­matic ef­fort to get him to un­der­stand this. She re­minds him that he’s a con­sci­en­tious­ness, hon­est, and well-ed­u­cated man, but that he uses th­ese virtues to suf­fo­cate oth­ers. Holed up in his rooms, as­pir­ing to write a book on Turk­ish theater, Aydin doesn’t see that win­ter is a pro­foundly more im­me­di­ate and vis­ceral time for the vil­lagers he looks down upon from his moun­tain­top perch. When the lo­cal imam, Hamdi (Ser­hat Mustafa Kiliç), in­ad­ver­tently an­noys him by in­ter­ven­ing in the glass-break­ing in­ci­dent, Aydin re­sponds by writ­ing a col­umn in the lo­cal pa­per about the role an imam should play. Aydin’s act serves only to dis­tance him even more from his com­mu­nity. Mean­while, Ni­hal’s at­tempts to or­ga­nize a fundrais­ing event to help de­velop schools in the re­gion are crit­i­cized by her hus­band, who con­sid­ers her in­ex­pe­ri­enced and naive. When Is­mail’s son con­tracts pneu­mo­nia, the di­rect re­sult of be­ing chased into the wa­ter by Aydin’s as­sis­tant early in the film, Ni­hal at­tempts to set things right with the poor fam­ily. But Aydin’s shadow falls long, even on his young wife, who he pur­ports (un­con­vinc­ingly) to love, and things do not go as ex­pected.

Win­ter Sleep is the kind of film in which the set­ting re­flects the in­te­rior state of the pro­tag­o­nists: As the snows fall, their re­la­tions grow icier and icier, even­tu­ally erupt­ing. We are left with a clear re­minder that be­ing king of the moun­tain can be a lonely thing in­deed.

— Michael Abatemarco

Cold shoul­der: frosty in Ana­to­lia

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