Set in Cappadochia, central Anatolia, WINTER SLEEP (KIS UYKUSU) focuses on the life of Aydın (Haluk Bilginer) a retired actor who now runs the Hotel Othello. The name is significant, as it reveals his true preoccupation with performance, a trait reinforced by the framed bills on his study wall. With plenty of family money at his disposal he has no need to work, but that does not stop him from screwing every penny out of his tenants with the help of his henchperson Hidayet (Ayberk Pekcan). Although perpetually drawing attention to his poor background and unhappy childhood, it's clear that Aydın's life revolves totally around himself; and that the only way he can salve his conscience is to make charitable donations, preferably anonymously. With KIŞ UYKUSU we are back on thematic territory that director Nuri Bilge Ceylan previously explored in KASABA. He readily acknowledges Chekhov as an inspiration for creating a world where no one has much to do except talk to one another. Aydın busies himself with a variety of tasks, including writing a column for the local newspaper and writing a book on the history of the Turkish theater. His sister Necla (Demet Akbağ) spends much of her time lolling on the sofa and wondering whether she should forgive her ex-husband for an unhappy marriage. Aydın's wife Nihal (Melissa Sözen) is equally indolent; her sole aim in life seems to be to chair a committee of prosperous locals dedicated to raising money for the local school. Stylistically speaking KIŞ UYKUSU is slightly different from Ceylan's earlier work; there are fewer reflective sequences designed to prompt reflection on the landscape and the elements, and more face-to-face confrontations between the protagonists. They emphasize the basic emptiness of their lives, as they have nothing to but talk and talk, in contrast to their tenants - for example the local imam Hamdi (Serhat Kılıç) who wonders about taking a second job so as to make ends meet. On the other hand these lengthy conversations draw attention to the protagonists' love of surfaces; unable (or unwilling) to engage with life's realities, they would rather talk at rather than with one another. The unbelievable landscapes of Cappadochia in winter, with its fairy chimneys and unspoiled Anatolian terrain, offers a point of contrast to the characters' musings. While they spend their time both literally and mentally imprisoned within Aydın's hotel, the landscape offers a reminder of timeless virtues, as well as the fact that nature continues to flourish in spite of humanity's best attempts to destroy it. The film comes to a climactic conclusion when Ceylan brings the indolent characters into contact with those forced to eke out an existence in harsh conditions. Nihal offers a financial gift to Hamdi's family; but fails to understand how such an act of apparent goodwill represents the ultimate insult. As Hamdi's brother İsmail (Nejat İsler) contends, it is nothing more than conscience money to atone for the fact that Aydın's family were responsible for causing İsmail's son Ilyas's (Emirhan Doruktutan's) pneumonia earlier on in the film. Meanwhile Aydın discovers to his cost that the local educator Levent (Nadir Sarıbacak) has a jaundiced view of all wealthy philanthropists. Yet such experiences do not lead to any form of redemption. The film ends with Aydın and Nihal sitting morosely in their deserted hotel, looking out of the window at the snow-covered vista beyond, imprisoned by their lack of perception. This film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes; it deserves every success. A modern classic.
A hotel owner and landlord in a remote Turkish village deals with conflicts within his family and a tenant behind on his rent.
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May 2, 2019