PRINT January 2012


Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm, 150 minutes.

WE ARE LOOKING THROUGH a rain-streaked window at three dark-haired men sitting around a table in an auto shop, eating, drinking, and talking. Although we see their faces clearly, there is no way to make out their conversation or to discern the relationships among them. After a few minutes—longer than prescribed for the opening scene of a murder mystery, which is what Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia turns out to be—one of the men steps out into the tire-strewn yard to feed his dog. It’s night, there are no lights outside, and the camera keeps its distance. The scene is the perfect setup for a police procedural in which every “Aha!” moment for characters or audience will then be disputed or conflict with other facts as we thought we knew them. True, there is a corpse, and when it is found some ninety minutes later, one wonders whether it

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