This movie is for hard core lovers of foreign movies as you'll have to be able to sit through 3 hours and 16 minutes of it. However I'm doing this movie an injustice by talking about how long it is, as it's far more than the sum of its length. It's a close study of human nature and though most of the movie was dialogue and concentrates on the interactions of the primary characters, it is rich, intense and plump with scenes laden with difference of opinions. The backdrop of the cold winter landscape set in Cappadocia in Central Anatoliain countryside with mound-like formations is barren and isolated yet beautiful in its own way.
Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is an ex actor and hotel owner living in central Anatolia and married to the much younger and beautiful Nihal (Melisa Sözen). His sister Necla (Demet Akbag) has also moved in with them after her recent divorce. It's the winter season and things seem quiet around the hotel. With three people in the house locked down for the winter, you're in for a bit of a ride when animosities rise to the surface.
Running parallel is the story of one of Aydin's tenants, Hamdi (Serhat Mustafa Kiliç), who is having a financial set back and has not paid the rent. His wife, son and brother Ismail (Nejat Isler) whom has had a brush with the law, lives with him. Pleading with Aydin for some understanding about his financial situation Hamdi's words seem to fall on deaf ears. Aydin tells him he does not handle any of the rental details and directs him back to the agents handling it. He explains he is far too busy working on a book about the history of Turkish theatre.
Awarded the International Critics Prize in Cannes in addition to the Palme d'Or, Winter Sleep keeps you hypnotised as it intensely examines human frailty. Nihal, the wife, fills her time in what she feels is an empty life, setting up a charity to improve conditions at a local school. This gives her some purpose in life and she goes at it with a passion. At first she is disappointed that Aydin shows no interest at all, but when he eventually does, other feelings surface that causes discontent between the two.
Necla, his sister, does not particularly like her sister-in-law Nihal, and feels she walks around the house with a 'holier than thou' attitude. Bored and languishing in Anatolia and wishing she were enjoying life in Istanbul, yet doing nothing about it, Necla picks away each day at her brother and sister-in-law. Starting conversations with no particular aim expect to provoke and confront, she takes out her frustrations, particularly during a long laborious tête-à-tête with her brother one evening.
This film is filled with long philosophical debates and through everyone's projected feelings about him, Aydin begins to face up to the cracks in his life. Though he strategically deflects criticisms and remains stoic, his heart speaks the words he wants to say out loud in his head, but never come out of his mouth. As you delve into the emotional up and downs of these characters, there is no doubt you may recognise some parts of these relationships reflected in your own. Though spoken in Turkish with English sub-titles, you will easily pick up the relentless conversations and debates between the characters.
I could not find fault with the performances of the actors. Each one is tight in their characterisation of the part they play. The husband, wife and sister trio take the cake with their expressive language and faces. I give this a 7 out of 10. However, though I was fully immersed in the movie, gazing at every expression and taking in every word being said, sitting for over 3 and a quarter hours did take its toll. There were lots of moments of shifting in my seat and discreetly stretching my back and legs. I would suggest you do what it takes before you dive into the water with this one to eliminate trips to the rest room in the middle of the movie. The upside of going to Cinema Nova for me, apart from their cheap weekly Monday pricing ($6 tickets all day till 4pm, and $9 tickets after 4pm on Mondays) is having Brunetti to go to in the same complex for a nice hot cuppa and to feast my eyes on some food porn in the form of delicious looking cakes.