Film of the week : Winter Sleep (2014)
Filmmaker : Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Language : Turkish
Winter Sleep is a long, sincere, and poignantly arresting study of human relationships. Aydin, a retired, middle-aged actor who has inherited his late father’s hotel and its surrounding areas in the highlands of Anatolia — snowy, sparsely-vegetated, and muddy after rains — spends his time writing a pretentious and highbrow column for the local newspaper. The film traces his interactions with his tenants, wife, and sister; they reveal an unhappiness at the roots of his relationships and a deep dissatisfaction with life itself.
Ceylan is not sympathetic to his characters — they are lonely and conceited — and he writes them with such compelling truth that is fascinating and disturbing in equal measures. The only bit of sympathy he provides to his characters is ample amount of dialogue as if Ceylan has chosen only to film those moments when these characters aren’t caught up with themselves and are interacting. But as the film progresses, you realise that most of the film happens and most of the truth resides in what is not said rather than what is said.
When the film premiered at Cannes 2014, people hailed it as Ceylan’s magnum opus. The film went on to win the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. Ceylan, who has made some of the most important films of the 21st century, once said, “I don’t like comedies. I don’t like to laugh.” Winter Sleep doesn’t make you laugh. It doesn’t fill you up with sorrow either. Instead it makes you experience dysfunction in familial feelings, isolation in interactions and drama in inaction, thereby making you realise that love, anger, happiness, and sadness are sometimes a privilege and their expression is sometimes a luxury.