Continuity Errrors? DVD Review of Turkish ‘Winter Sleep’…

Spoiler alert (maybe spoiling your popcorn, that is): this movie is long. Pack a lunch. Pull up a beer. Better yet: pull up an Ottoman (pun intended). This is a Turkish movie, after all, with all that implies: beautiful landscapes, frumpy old women and cultural anomalies. If at first it doesn’t seem like much is happening, tension is building just below the surface. This movie explores interiors like I haven’t seen since Bergman, Woody Allen notwithstanding.

Horses run wild. Tenants skip the rent. Kids are naughty, and the winter is cold. Landlords collect the rent, and so do hotel managers. Guests are better than tenants, because they pay more rent. Divorcees lament their fate. Wives resent their husbands. Young wives are more easily estranged from older husbands from the get-go, given the inherent inequalities. This is all pretty boring stuff, until you give it a name, and a face, and a place—and a decent script.

The mandate for movies, especially American movies, is: “Show it; don’t say it.” Action films don’t bore, and more importantly: they sell. But there’s more to life than kiss-kiss-bang-bang. People’s feelings are primary in a world developed past the point of bodily self-sufficiency. Once a person has considered suicide, just casually or even in jest, the genie is out of the bottle. Welcome to self-consciousness, or just ‘consciousness’, for short. Nothing will ever be the same.

Aydin is the protagonist here, well-meaning but flawed ex-actor cum writer cum hotelier, liberal in the classic sense, but still macho in the modern sense. His much younger wife Nihal feels smothered by his larger-than-life presence and frustrated in her attempts to find self-worth outside of his controlling and demeaning demeanor.

Small-town life offers little respite, and Aydin’s sister has her own, albeit different, problems. There is no escape, but to the script’s credit, the attempt to escape comes from the perpetrator Aydin, not the victimized wife—nice touch. Also to the script’s credit are no simple answers or squeaky-clean happy endings—bravo. Check the box that says ‘It’s complicated’ on your FaceBook profile. At least it’s honest. So am I.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is obviously a director who likes his gloomy moods, but then why didn’t he choose a gloomier setting for this flick? Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most splendidly goofy landscapes, something straight out of the Flintstones with its hoodoo ‘fairy chimneys’ and balloon rides and guesthouses carved right into the soft rock.

In fact a modern handsome Turkish woman with little tolerance for the frumpy housewifely role she’s expected to play in traditional Turkey, could do worse than a modern tourist resort area, where local boys just lie in wait for itinerant foreign ladies for whom they can’t wait to “worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies”.

Ditto for the sister, who bemoans the good life that she left behind in Istanbul. I’m only sorry that Ceylan didn’t do more with the cultural incongruities inherent in the tourist landscape of Cappadocia, especially in a Muslim country of southern Europeans speaking a Mongol-related language. Now there’s a movie!

Continuity errrors? Well… The distinct second-class role that women play in Turkish society was underplayed, but… tourists there in winter? I’d say that’s a definite fudge, or maybe ‘Turkish Delight’, available at better airport stores. Yet all in all, ‘Winter Sleep’ is a movie definitely worth seeing—highly recommended.  Available at Netflix–and better DVD outlets.