Illuminating the thick darkness of a rural pure night, Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan lights the way, guiding us all into the depths of not only a province, a country, a culture, but also gleans the inner workings of his variegated characters and their social standings. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is that rare work indeed; an outstanding entertainment which functions equally as a courageous work of art.
Departing from the spare interpersonal connections of his masterful first two features, the critically beloved Distant and Climates, he only deepens his gift for subtle psychological insight into his characters and continues exploring neo-noir genre from his remarkable last feature, Three Monkeys. Anatolia may well be his most complex project yet.
Working closely with his exceptional dp Gokhan Tiryaki, and shooting on deceptively rich digital, Ceylan triumphs at birthing one of the most beautifully digitally construed cinematic pallettes I have ever encountered. As opposed to the longer timespans of his evocative first three narratives, the master confines himself and us to one night and the following day for his newest work. As the local police inspector, lawyer, and doctor, as well as several officers, accompany two criminals on a nocturnal search for the scene of a murder and where their victim's body is buried, he slowly reveals his true agenda; casting light on local bureaucracies and their agents of administration. In addition, he touches on themes of contrasting careers, nationalism, masculinity, and the nature of good and evil. His male characters are sharply drawn, yet open enough for interpretation.
Ceylan respects the audience, and believes enough in their intelligence to craft his deeply drawn films which enrich and enlighten. Steeping us in the magnificence of his images and themes, we watch in wonder at the majesty of one of the world's greatest living film artista.