Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkish chronicler of his countrymen’s psychological strife, won the Palme d’Or at the 67th Cannes Film Festival for his new film Winter Sleep. The accolade, announced last Saturday at the wrap of the world’s most influential movie festival, was well deserved. For this director has been orbiting the stratosphere of art cinema for over a decade now, his oeuvre some of the strongest work being produced by contemporary film-makers.
Haluk Bilginer and Melisa Sozen in Winter Sleep, by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 67th Cannes Film Festival.
Winter Sleep cemented Ceylan’s status as a master. But it all started with his 2002 film Distant, made when he was 43, which won the runner-up prize in Cannes and put his name on the A-list. That forlorn, haunting, coming-home movie gave us a glimpse of what was to follow in Ceylan’s career: an aesthetic of patient, unhurried build-up, precise framing, gloomy landscapes, and characters who have to deal with inner conflicts, particularly domestic anxieties and urban-rural tensions. The existential gap between intellectual aloofness and the mundane reality of provincial Turkey is the motif in Distant, in which a photographer returns from the city to his snow-covered hometown. It is also the dominant theme in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, in which a doctor drives along a deserted road with a rural policemen trying to solve a murder case; and also in Winter Sleep, in which a former theatre actor leaves Istanbul and returns to the poverty-stricken region of his birth where he nurtures his fantasy of being a pseudo-scholar while persecuting his young wife whom he regards as intellectually inferior.
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