Toronto’s new year begins with Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s observant film, Winter Sleep. The film is subdued and often quietly alluring. Ceylan’s central theme even transcends into the more technical building blocks of the film, giving audiences open cinematography that’s filled with details that always have our eyes grazing across its palette.
But when you sign on for Winter’s Sleep, you’re in for the long haul. While you may hear wonderful, deserving praise about the performances and the filmmaker’s strict discipline to have as much patience as possible, Winter’s Sleep is as daunting as ever with a runtime that rivals the final chapter in the Lord of the Rings series.
In my reviews, I can sometimes focus too much on a film’s length. That’s because pacing is a crucial key in finding a film’s proper rhythm. Winter Sleep is 196 minutes. That’s three hours and sixteen minutes in layman’s terms. Surprisingly, Ceylan’s first hour works quite well. Despite heavily leaning on scenes driven on straight dialogue, our attention is held through the film’s prime strengths.
Movie goers are aquatinted with Aydin (played by Haluk Bilginer), a former actor who manages a hotel like no other in Anatolia. The residences are rocky and seem to pop out of the hills. To make another Lord of the Rings reference, imagine if Bilbo ran a shire bed-and-breakfast.
The drama is tense as other inmates pick away at Aydin’s tolerance. This includes his sister Necla (played by Demet Akbag), who challenges Aydin and his personal writings despite her good intentions, and his wife Nihal (played by Melisa Sözen), who is striking and seems to be in an unstoppable state of disappointment with her husband.
I commend Ceylan on his ability to march forward through extremely dry back-and-forth debates and arguments, but it’s simply too much for the audience to handle. The dialoging can be compared to a snake eating its own tail. The players are passionate, yet they seem to be on repeat. Of course, this was the filmmaker’s intent – to capture the feeling of insufferable frustration by others within the denseness of winter. But, what’s wrong with a version of this film running two hours?
There’s lots of beauty and despair in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter’s Sleep. It’s occasionally remarkable and throughly authentic. However, there’s no reason for the film to be this long.