DVD review: Winter Sleep - a Chekhovian masterpiece

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 May, 2015, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 May, 2015, 10:52pm

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has created a masterpiece, taking inspiration from a tale by Anton Chekhov as he strips bare the conceits of a man obsessed with himself in a manner that would make the Russian master proud.

At more than three hours, Winter Sleep is definitely a commitment, but Ceylan provides so much to think about that hardly a moment seems wasted. Haluk Bilginer - once of British television soap opera EastEnders, would you believe - plays an ageing writer holed up in a hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey, and casting an often contemptuous eye over the society around him.

At first there seems much to admire about the man - he's attentive, watchful, seemingly concerned about everyone and everything. But there soon come hints that all might not be as it seems: a harsh word here, a simmering of tensions within his family, a rock thrown by a child at his car windscreen. The veneer is slowly stripped back to reveal this character's complete isolation. No one wants to be near him, but what Ceylan and Bilginer do is build some kind of monster - one so detached from reality that he has no concept of how his actions and words affect those around him.

There are moments of black comedy and streams of dialogue that will have you gripping the armrest, such is the brutal honesty about life and relationships they reveal. Bilginer is brilliant as the man immersed in a world of his own making and he is ably supported by the two female leads, who come closest to penetrating the walls of delusion he builds around himself.

Demet Akbao is the sister who can hardly - if ever - conceal her disgust at her brother's arrogance, but can do little to break it down. But in one shattering scene - and, near the film's end, one desperate, desolate look - the wonderful Melisa Sozen almost makes Winter Sleep her own. She's the wife who gave up everything for this man - her youth, her hope - and who now finds herself trapped and suffocated by his presence. And her eyes seem to stare out from the screen, searching for recognition from anyone who has ever been sold a lie.

Extras: Making of Winter Sleep featurette.

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