Monday, October 3, 2011

NYFF 2011: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

One of the best films I've seen so far at the New York Film Festival, this is a long and slow (but in a good way) film that is absolutely a must see when it screens on October 8th.

The plot of the film has prosecutor, a doctor and some police taking two confessed murders into the countryside to find the body they dumped. The trouble is that with night falling and that much of the landscape all looking the same things become complicated (which fountain was it near? What tree?). As the night wears on we get to know more and more about what happened but also a great deal about many of the people in the caravan.

The first thing you need to know when you see this, is that you have to hang into the end. What you think is going on isn't always so and very often a glance, a look or an off handed remark will say way more than the seeming random nature at first indicates, or it is a clue to something else later on or earlier. Things build all the way to the end to the point that when you get to the end you'll want to jump back in at some point to see how it all goes together.

I said at some point because this is a long film (a solid two and a half hours) and it is very deliberately paced. What do I mean by deliberately paced? Things often seem to unfold in real time, with long takes of people standing staring or simply talking while they wait for one of the killers and his police minders to go off and try and find the corpse. Think of it as the reality of police work, a job that involves lots of waiting.

While it is deliberate in it's pacing the film is never boring. The dialog is often wickedly funny. These are hardened cops who are trying to balance their home lives (a cop is dealing with not picking up a prescription) with the job (there is a body to be found). We also get a few philosophical questions about whether things just happen or if what we take to be say a miracle have a real explanation (The answer here is heart breaking).

I was riveted, as was both John and Bully.

I can't recommend this film enough. Its a film that is both intellectually stimulating and highly entertaining, which is a combination is rare supply these days.

And if you can, go see this film on the big screen. Its shot in a gorgeous widescreen that is going to be lost an all but the biggest big screen TVs.

As I said one of the best films at the Film Festival so far.

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