Film Review Of ‘Once Upon A Time In Anatolia’

‘Once Upon A Time In Anatolia’ by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, is a Turkish film of deep meanings where dialogues reveal as much as they conceal. Indeed this is as much true of the plot which is about a murder in rural Anatolia. It very well might have been an actual incident as it has all the hallmarks of realism.

However as substantial as the plot is the background and the interplay between characters involved in investigating the murder which forms the focus and context of this film. The character cast is restricted involving as it does primarily the police, a public prosecutor, a prisoner and a doctor accompanying them in trying to find out the actual place of occurrence of the murder which forms the opening scene of the film.

This doctor is mercurial and we suspect he is also disturbed. He however shows an empathy towards the alleged perpetrator of the murder accompanying him and the police in attempting to locate the victim’s corpse; an empathy which is totally lacking from the police who are brusque and intimidatory.

Apart from this there are certain other interesting perspectives which come out in the film such as that “behind every problem is a woman” which chimes interestingly with a comment by somebody I know who said recently that “women represent bad news.” In that context the doctor narrates to a public prosecutor in a dialogue that a woman predicted the day of her death exactly in advance. All this is not to be of course taken out of context to indicate I’m gender biased but helps in putting ‘Once Upon A Time In Anatolia’ in a certain context. In this regard its main focus is on violence and masculinity, where women are placed in ambiguous positions as they are both primary as well as secondary to the plot.

The particular dialogue and the doctor are relevant as apparently he covers up certain facts of the murder victim’s autopsy and we are left wondering why or if indeed if he has some involvement in the actual offence. This is all the more relevant as its revealed that the alleged perpetrator is covering up for somebody else and naturally this is quite curious.

Apart from all this, in the context of the murder a perspective is given of Turkey beyond the gloss of its urban centres; a facet which a casual visitor to that country or foreigners residing there may not normally come across. At the same time this is a visual production which deviates from mainstream cinematic traditions with added authenticity as the dialogues are in Turkish with English subtitles; naturally therefore knowing Turkish would enhance a potential viewer’s appreciation of this film considering that the duration of the film is close to two and a half hours.

The leading figures in this drama include Nusret (Taner Birsel), commissar Naci (Yilmax Erdogan) and Dr. Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) together with a prisoner, Kenan (Firat Tanis). This film won a Grand Prix award for its producer. Apart from that as the Guardian has noted its one of those films where nothing seems to be happening but everything is, which is no mean achievement. There are of course many more details to this production than described here but then the idea is not to reveal everything; as is the case with the film itself,