Kis uykusu (Winter Sleep)

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Kis uykusu (Winter Sleep) was well worth the long drive to the cinema. It was also well worth the almost three and a half hours for which the film ran – three and a half hours in which very little happened: just what we like in a film! I must admit that one or two of the lengthy dialogues contained a few too many repetitions, so that I occasionally found myself thinking ‘OK, we’ve got the message’, and perhaps the film as a whole wouldn’t have suffered from a few five-minute cuts. But better too long than too short, and most of this film reminded me slightly of a Bruckner symphony with its ‘heavenly lengths’: absolutely no hurry, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Somewhere in the middle it also started to drag a bit, but only briefly; it soon regained its pace and from there on I found it ever more fascinating.

(details below)

This was anything but a jolly film – but there again, that applies to most of the films we go to see! This one was basically about the fact that, no matter how good people’s intentions might be, they always end up expressing them the wrong way, being misunderstood, and eventually doing more harm than good. The various characters are in very different social positions relative to one another and they all express different emotions, but the results of their words and actions are always and inevitably the same: just the opposite of what they would have wished. We see how the image people have of themselves differs from how other people see them, and how difficult it can be to express what one really feels, so that just continuing to play a role is the easiest option.

The main character Aydin has many faults. He is self-satisfied and sarcastic, and finds himself far superior to anyone in his entourage (and I use that word as much in the English sense as in the French!). He treats his manager Hidayet like a servant, letting him carry all his luggage for him, and his wife like a spoiled child. As a landlord, he tries to preserve an image of long-suffering reasonableness and even generosity, while deliberately distancing himself from the day-to-day running of his business, letting his manager and lawyers do the dirty work of debt collection, repossessions and evictions. When one of his tenants comes literally begging for more time to pay his rent, he refers him to Hidayet knowing full well what sort of reception he’d get there, washing his hands like Pontius Pilate and keeping up the pretence of not being able to do anything to help. He keeps coming out with statements along the lines of ‘Everyone takes it out on me just because I’m rich’, ‘I didn’t invent the system’ and even ‘God made rich people and poor people, and he must have known what he was doing’. In spite of all this I couldn’t judge him too harshly, partly because he’s a complex character who seems to mean well somewhere deep down and is almost as much a victim of the prevailing circumstances as everyone else, and partly because he’s surrounded by characters who, regardless of their economic situation, are all just as bad in their own different ways.

The main emotional ‘action’ takes place within the triangle of Aydin, his wife and his sister, and in the course of the film it becomes obvious that all three are deeply unhappy people, each living their own lie. His wife thinks she’s doing useful work to help those less fortunate than herself, while she’s really only trying to put some purpose and interest into her useless and boring life, and his sister is a bitter and frustrated woman who seems to hate and resent everyone around her, and comes out with ideas which suggest (to me at least) that she’s starting to go slightly crazy. At the other end of the social scale we see Hamdi and his brother Ismail, who take obsequiousness and stupid pride respectively to ridiculous lengths. Everyone in this film, no matter what their intentions, seems to do everything they can to make their own and everyone else’s life miserable. Real communication seems to be impossible, and every seemingly ‘good’ gesture is shown to be bad, misinterpreted as bad and/or answered with ingratitude.

The acting is invariably brilliant from start to finish, and every character is totally realistic and believable. There are no cardboard cut-outs here; everyone has their good and bad points and is as complex as people are in real life. The locations are amazing, and the cinematography excellent but unobtrusive. There was very little music, but what there was was well chosen and very effective. I want to see more of this guy’s films!

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Details:

title Kis uykusu (Winter Sleep)
director Nuri Bilge Ceylan
released 2014
language Türkçe
subtitles français
seen 17/09/2014, at the cinema
further information IMDb

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