Winter Sleep

Aydin, a retired actor, owns a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal and his sister Necla, who is coping with her recent divorce. During the winter, snow covers the ground and boredom brings the return of old memories, pushing Aydin to flee…


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  • ★★★★★ review by Lise on Letterboxd

    Tiff 2014 capsule - film 2

    I took the train from Paris to Milan a long time ago and I remember looking out the window at the majestic mountains admiring them, of course, but it wasn't until we got into Northern Italy that I found them beautiful and alive. It was there that real life was sprinkled throughout the mountains, with clotheslines everywhere and junkyards and swing sets. It was there that I loved those mountains.

    Give Nuri Bilge Ceylan the most beautiful setting in the world and he will show you the clotheslines. It is why I trust him. I will listen to anything he wants to tell me because I know that whatever story he tells, it will be true. He is one of the few writers (along with his co-writer spouse Ebru Ceylan) from whom I will take pronouncements on life and meaning and philosophy, not because he says things that have not been said before, but because he knows how to say them. His talent is an astute sense of observation. He knows what it sounds like when real people think big ideas.

    Many writers and directors think that big ideas should be the point of a film or its theme, and they get wrapped up in their ideas, filling the film with Symbolism and Metaphor and other such things I have difficulty digesting. Ceylan doesn't want to present majesty. He doesn't want to be clever. He doesn't want to show off. He wants to honour people and how they live. He wants to show people as they are. People who argue, people who are alone, people who have grand ideas, people who lie, people who manipulate, people who get caught and feel shame. His characters are true because they are real. And like real people, they have ideas. Some think pride is everything, others believe charity is most important virtue, some wonder if forgiveness might be the answer to everything while some think there are too many bleeding hearts in the world. Still others just want to see the end of the day without ruffling any feathers.

    The magic of Winter Sleep is that these very real people interact the way very real people interact and watching them is as captivating an experience as I am likely to ever get out of a film.

    Ceylan loves real people, flaws and all, and it shows in the care he takes with his characters. It helps that his actors are some of the best I have ever seen, but perhaps their task is made simpler because their words are words that could be spoken naturally.

    Ceylan keeps it real. It is why I trust him.

  • ★★★★★ review by Florin Stan on Letterboxd

    Aydin is a deeply flawed human being. He is condescending, manipulative, phony, he thinks of himself as profound when in fact he is shallow. He mistakes his selfishness for altruism, he expects nothing in return but ardently seeks personal gain or comfort. He finds his encounters with the tenants embarrassing, he avoids them like the plague, yet he doesn't miss a chance to mockingly assert his superiority. He wants to appear modest yet he will accept any words of praise or will turn others' shame into his moment of glory. He is friendly to the tourists not because he is kind but because it gives him a sense of gratification. He writes for the local newspaper to satisfy his intellectual side but doesn't want to go write for a bigger newspaper; maybe it's because the number of readers he has is of no importance to him or maybe it's because he is at a safe distance from critics or a significantly larger number of intelligent readers who would see right through him. He is controlling and possessive over his wife Nihal, pretending to offer her freedom and a marriage of equal footing. He lives in a bubble that he can govern to his liking. He is a chameleon that changes his appearance and identity according to his needs, environment and the people he interacts with.

    Still, Aydin is a human being. He is flawed but being flawed is part of being human. He thinks he's the master of his thoughts but by the end he realizes he's the servant. His chameleon personality seems to be his way of surviving, the only way he knows how to engage. He's afraid, afraid of being alone, afraid of loosing contact, afraid of loosing his identity, afraid of falling into despair. He's engaged in many activities in an attempt to fill the void that's crushing him. He is desperate for empathy. He seems lost, without a purpose. Is it selfish to not want to be alone? Should he be blamed for being wealthy? Should he be blamed for following his own interests? What constitutes a good deed? Is a good deed done for personal gain any less good? Why come out of the bubble? Nuri Bilge Ceylan presents these questions to his characters (and audience), first to break their false sense of reality and then to torment their souls.

    The characterizations are so rich and the characters so layered that the level of access the audience is given to these characters is staggering, and potentially frightening as it may reveal unpleasant things about our nature. The quiet moments of solitude, the long, unbroken conversations that continually evolve, the many feelings that are felt, all make the characters seem very real and true to life. Aydin is a fully realized character, developed in a fully engrossing way; at the beginning we think he's a great person, then we see how flawed he can be, and by the end he sees that himself. The same goes for Nihal, a depressed woman whose marriage seems to make her life fade away and whose idea of fulfillment involves finding solace anywhere but in said marriage. Necla, Aydin's sister, is described by vanity and burdened by her divorce. In contrast, the tenants family, having material problems (they're poor), seems free of any emotional burdens. Ismail, even if a drunk who treats his wife and boy harshly, has a very clear mind. He previously went to prison but what he did he considered just; he didn't hesitate when Nihal came to him to offer money. He and his wife have found their purpose in raising their child. Hamdi, Ismail's brother and the local imam, has found solace in God, his mother in prayer. Ilyas, the young boy, in a crucial moment, says he wants to be a cop when he grows up, something Nihal struggles to understand. Protecting the moral values of this society, deciding what's right or wrong, separating the bad from the good, is something that makes sense only to those clear of mind; to those solely concerned with their self, clouded by feeble concerns and contradictory notions and to those lacking a purpose, it does not.

    The coming of the winter could signify purification and clarity of the mind, something Aydin lacks at the beginning and seems to almost achieve, or realize he lacks, by the end (as it appears from the apologetic narration at the end, the only element of the film that seems to be out of place as the images already conveyed what the words in the narration expressed). Yet, as the title implies, this is only a phase, a winter sleep; spring will follow soon enough, the tourists will come pouring in, and the chameleon will not be exposed by the whiteness of the snow anymore - it will blend in the greens and grays and muddy colors of society and of self's painted caverns. All will be as it was, an indistinguishable landscape, as part of an endless, inescapable cycle.

    Winter Sleep is a fantastic movie, a stunning character study that provides poignant social commentary and insight into the human nature. It is about social division, ego, marriage, loneliness, morality, doubt and about so much more that awaits to be discovered.

    Conscience is but a word that cowards use,

    Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.

  • ★★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    TIFF 2014 Film #2

    Reason for pick, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan – Climates, 3 Monkeys, Once Upon a Time In Anatolia

    Visually stunning and lyrically beautiful, Winter Sleep carries you along like a leaf on a river. It’s amazing how Ceylan can craft such an engaging story with only conversation; virtually eschewing a traditional story arc.

    A common thread through Ceylan’s filmography is an un-hurried approach, and at nearly three and a half hours, it would be fair to say that Winter Sleep is his least rushed. While the thought of this generous runtime being filled with only characters conversing may sound tedious, it’s not. With every incident, every individual conversation, another layer is peeled away from our characters.

    Haluk Bilginer leads a positively phenomenal cast of Turkish actors. Their brilliant realization of Nuri Bilge Ceylan and wife Ebru Ceylan’s words are what make Winter Sleep the masterpiece it is. Even the smallest role is rendered completely formed, and with a level of passion seldom seen.

    It’s an uncommon thing indeed when cinematography this breathtaking takes a back seat, but here it does. Ceylan uses the dramatically beautiful features of his beloved Anatolia as a form of visual punctuation in-between conversations, almost like a sherbet between courses. Score is virtually absent, and sound design is subtle whistling of the wind or crackling of a fire. All come together with the superb acting to create what seems like an effortlessly naturalistic experience.

    Ceylan tackles big themes like ego, self, class, and charity, but does it in such a lifelike way that you never feel like you’re being beaten over the head. The conclusions you come to are your own, not ones imposed on you, and that is what makes it such a brilliant film.

    This is easily Ebru and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s most triumphant work, and completely deserving of its Palme d'Or.

  • ★★★★★ review by Rod Sedgwick on Letterboxd

    ''Now is the winter of our discontent''

    Opening night at my local small town cinema, myself and two elderly men two rows behind me - exactly what I expected (a Turkish subtitled 196 min film with no intermission), and also exactly what I wanted. Near silence and the darkness of the cosy theatre made way for complete immersion into the wintry Anatolian landscape that I had been craving ever since the film's Palme d'Or win at Cannes earlier in the year.

    Adored filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan might expand the borders of his visual canvas with every film, but he is also careful never to let anything pretty on screen get in the way of a good story or rich characterization, in fact, what is most striking and remarkable here in Winter Sleep is just how much takes place indoors, where cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki must rely on the inky nooks and amber firelight of these cold interiors to work much of his magic. The dialogue heavy examination of marriage and familial tension is a wonderful melting pot of inspiration from a vast array of Russian wordsmiths such as Chekhov and Dostoevsky, along with a lead character in Aydin, who resembles a true Shakespearean figure, and beyond the Bergmanesque conversations and monologues that are another notable inspiration, we get an insight into class divide in this Cappadocian region, and just how the self-satisfied Ayden looms over all below him in his mountainside hotel.

    I never felt the length of this film, but rather felt it earned every second and was suitably paced, offering momentous intelligently written scenes full of barbed dialogue broken up with breathing space, symbolic diversions (the horse and the rabbit elements come to mind), and the wonderful infusion of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 20 for added gravitas. The journey of Ayden (a memorable performance by Haluk Bilginer) might be the central focus, but the film would be nothing without the two women whose hearts have grown as hard as his own; Demet Akbag as his sister Necla gives him a run for his money and owns one scene in particular, whilst his young and beautiful wife Nihal (Melisa Sözen) is so incredibly nuanced that you simply cannot take your eyes off her when she is on screen. The performances all-round are electric, and the way they earnestly deliver the meaty writing deserves a standing ovation.

    I am still drunk on this film, and cannot stop thinking about the small moments; a certain guest of the hotel inquisitively attempting to uncover some of Aydin's façade, or the way he thinks of himself as royalty with a chauffer and will not even carry one bag of luggage, but instead watches on as his employee struggles. The arc of Aydin is incredibly well developed and the final conclusion should leave no viewer unsatisfied after sitting with the film for its hefty duration. I could continue to write for days about how much I drew from Winter Sleep, but it is certainly now my pick for best film of 2014, and I will be surprised if anything manages to topple the titan that is Ceylan's masterpiece from the top of my list.

  • ★★★★½ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd

    Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or at 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Winter Sleep arrives with high expectations but succeeds amazingly well in living up to its new-found honour for this Turkish drama is simply one of the most engrossing, mesmerizing & satisfying narratives to surface on the silver screen in the past year, and is definitely one of the best films of 2014.

    Set in Anatolia, the story of Winter Sleep concerns Aydın; the wealthy owner of a mountaintop hotel who was once an actor but has since fallen into the hibernation mode over the years. The plot covers the chaos his self-involved persona brings to his small kingdom as the animosity of his loved ones & the poor people under his reign begins surfacing once the winter approaches.

    Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the film takes a very methodical, patient & firm approach with its narrative which does a stellar job in slowly unraveling the inner details of the various characters inhabiting this story. The entire story is an amalgamation of one conversation after another but it's how each discussion begins & ends plus seamlessly switches from one to another that makes it such an immersive experience.

    The locations are wonderfully chosen, set pieces are finely detailed, the hotel itself creates a calm but secluded ambience which becomes all the more suffocating on the advent of winter. Camerawork is mostly still yet effective plus the landscapes are beautifully photographed, its 196 minutes of runtime never really bothers for the most part, thanks to its breezy storytelling & the score makes its presence felt just when it's required.

    Coming to the performances, every single actor here chips in strongly in their given roles & leave nothing to complain about. Haluk Bilginer delivers a magnificent performance as Aydın, and is brilliantly supported by Demet Akbağ & Melisa Sözen who play his sister & wife, respectively. The rest of the cast also shines since each character is deftly scripted & gradually developed which differentiates them from caricatures.

    On an overall scale, Winter Sleep is an intensely gripping, masterfully told & exquisitely layered study of a self-righteous character that also takes an interesting look at failing relationships, old age regrets, class divides, and the morals of right & wrong. And despite its challenging runtime, dialogue-driven plot & slow-burn narration, it manages to be a truly immersive & absorbing cinema that's worthy of your time & money. Highly recommended.

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