DVD review: Winter Sleep - blighted lives, blighted landscape

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 10:41pm

Winter Sleep
Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sozen, Demet Akbag
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

When making Winter Sleep, Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan turned to the work of Russian author Anton Chekhov for inspiration. So, yes, you can expect characters who become trapped by the snow that covers their little village as much as they are trapped by the situations they find themselves in. There is also a woman - achingly portrayed by Melisa Sozen - whose life is frozen in time and who can find no way out of her marriage.

And what a piece of work her husband is. The brilliance of the script and the portrayal of the character Aydin by Haluk Bilginer come in the way the layers are slowly peeled away. At first, we meet this newspaper columnist and sometime actor tucked away, running a hotel and ruminating on life and the people he comes into contact with.

The movie is long - three hours and 16 minutes - and there is a sense of foreboding that lingers from the first languid frames, as though the words we are hearing - mostly from Aydin - are not really presenting the full picture of life among the homes carved from the famous caves of Anatolia.

Little moments of action break the silences - a stone thrown at a car, the capture of a wild horse, a good deed that goes terribly wrong - and they increase the edginess. As time ticks by, we come to watch as the veneer that surrounds Aydin is stripped away.

By its end, the film is a character study that forces us to think about how people can become isolated by their own delusions and how our own obsessions - most tellingly with ourselves - can affect, even destroy, the people surrounding us. And in Aydin we have a man whose sheer arrogance borders on evil.

Sozen, too, gives a master-class performance as a woman who pins her hopes to a dream that in the end proves little more than words wasted on the icy wind.

Winter Sleep won the Palme d'Or in Cannes last year, but was a surprise omission for a nomination at the Oscars - surely a reflection of how strong the field was for best foreign-language film last year. This is a movie that will follow you around for days.

Extras: "making of" featurette