Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities…
‘Winter Sleep’, this year’s Palme D’Or winner at Cannes from Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, is a sprawling story that examines the relationship between rich and poor from the lens of Mr. Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a retired actor who runs an idyllic hotel in Anatolia. Similar to last year’s winner, ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’, ‘Winter Sleep’ clocks in at over 3 hours long and will be a challenging watch for many people, but those that stick it out will be rewarded for their patience with a splendidly written drama.
The film has several key themes, focusing on the human condition, morality and the challenges of life in a small community. Mr. Aydin is our main viewpoint into this world, although we are also introduced to his estranged wife, his sister, several friends and acquaintances, and a family who owe money for the property they rent from him. Aydin initially comes across fairly well, and Ceylan’s skilful direction and Bilginer’s meticulous portrayal depict the slow unravelling of a man unaware of his arrogance and the negative effect his behaviour and attitude have on others (particularly his wife).
These details are teased out in dialogue heavy scenes, which are expertly written and create stirring and intense moments between the key characters. The finest of these scenes come between Aydin and his younger wife, when the problems bubbling under the surface come to the fore and Aydin comes off in a manipulative and patronising way. It’s a terrific scene and its reminiscent of some of the best intense dialogue scenes of recent times, such as Phillip Seymour Hofmann and Joaquin Phoenix in ‘The Master’ or Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s argument in ‘Before Midnight’. It’s a magnificent scene that can only work due to the quality of the acting and the backstory that is carefully built up over the course of the film, and ‘Winter Sleep’ contains at least three of these moments.
Overall, ‘Winter Sleep’ is an excellently written drama, with some of the strongest characterisation in any film I’ve seen this year. It’s long, and it moves slowly at times, but stick with it, and it’s a richly rewarding experience.
Directed By: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Starring: Haluk Bilginer, Demet Akbag, Melisa Sozen, Nejat Isler, Emirhan Doruktutan, Ayberk Pekcan, Serhat Kilic and Tamer Levent