Turkish auteur filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest masterful epic is set in the steppes of Cappadocia on the desolate plains of Anatolia, which are heart-stoppingly beautiful. Some of the ancient caves carved into the side of this mountainous terrain have been converted into a Hotel by Aydin, a local landowner retired from acting. It’s the middle of a rough winter so the only inhabitants are Aydin’s much younger wife, and his sister, and a couple of guests.
The story starts when Aydin is being driven through the village by Hidayet his loyal second-in-command when a rock thrown by a local schoolboy shatters their jeep’s window. Hidayet stops and catches the boy and they drive him home to raise the matter with his father. The meeting doesn’t go well, as it turns out that Ismail the boy’s angry father has just been released from jail and his family are about to be evicted for not paying the rent. Their Landlord just happens to be Aydin, who likes to keep a good distance between himself and his tenants, and the rest of the world too.
Back in the hotel he secretes himself away penning opinion pieces for a local newspaper and threatening to start a book on Turkish Theater which he never seems to get around too. He is both selfish and arrogant and doesn’t take too well to dissent or criticism so when his sister, who has just moved back home after a recent nasty divorce, starts to discuss some of his recent articles, it quickly turns into an unpleasant argument as he bitterly vents his anger on her.
Nihal his young wife lives in her own separate quarters and spends her time and his money helping the poor local community in anyway she can, but when Aydin discovers this he just butts and tries to bully her into stopping. It’s an unbalanced fight as her naivete is really no match for his cynicism and his determination to complete control everything and just use the power of his money to get his own way.
This is all quite a reversal of style for Ceylan from his last movie the mesmerising ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ whichhad scant dialogue, as he now drives this story up with several very lengthy set-pieces arguments. First with the two siblings, and now we witness the last tenuous strands holding this rather unbalanced marriage together, being shattered as Aydin and his wife battle it out verbally.
There are others in the saga that add some touches of humor into this otherwise bleak tale such as the local teacher who is quite a funny drunk when Aydin holes up at his friends remote Farm when he cannot escape to Istanbul as he threatens Nihal he will. Also the consequences of the decisions that they both make when they are apart are humorous on one level, but mainly wrenching especially when Nihal takes it upon herself to offer to rescue Ismail and his family.
It is not the visual treat of the exquisite rugged snow-covered landscape courtesy of cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki that makes this epic 196 minute movie so compelling but it does play a major factor in ensurung that this magnum opus is the unforgettable enthralling movie that it is. On paper it seems like a rather thin scenario but in reality Ceylan fills both the screen and the story to the brim, and its clear to see why this time he finally captured the big prize at The Cannes Film Festival.