Combustible Celluloid
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With: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel, Ahmet Mumtaz Taylan, Fırat Tanis, Ercan Kesal, Cansu Demirci, Erol Erarslan, Ugur Arslanoglu, Murat Kilic, Safak Karali, Emre Sen, Burhan Yildiz, Nihan Okutucu
Written by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ercan Kesal, Ebru Ceylan
Directed by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Turkish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 157
Date: 03/07/2012

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dead for the Hills

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Turkish drama by acclaimed director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant, Climates, Three Monkeys) runs nearly three hours, but is instantly absorbing and not easy to let go of. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) takes place over the course of one long night. It begins in the dark, employing some dramatic lighting using the car headlights. A group of police and detectives, other professionals, and two murder suspects drive around the hills outside of town, searching for a buried corpse. The suspects claim that they can't remember the exact location of the body, and they keep trying new places with landmarks that look the same. The men grow tired as the sky grows brighter.

All the while, the men begin to discuss little things, the small details of life, and the conversation grows more and more toward the bigger picture, about existence itself, and even death. Eventually the men stop for food, the body is found, and, as dawn breaks, it is prepared for an autopsy. The rest of the movie concerns the procedures involved once the body is found. It winds up with an amazing, moving little touch of life amongst all the death and paperwork. Ceylan's sustained us of light and sound, of active dialogue and passive visuals, make for a riveting experience: a murder story in which the murder is the least important element.

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