Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (15)

Starring: Muhammet Uzuner, Taner Birsel

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The Independent Culture

Can a film be achingly slow yet completely gripping? Yes, if it's Nuri Bilge Ceylan's astonishing crime procedural, which takes its own sweet time revealing not much about the crime but a great deal about male regret and melancholy.

From its long opening take of three police cars in convoy, just as dusk falls over the rolling hills, you know you're about to witness something extraordinary, though you have to wait for it. In the party are a doctor (Muhammet Uzuner) and prosecutor (Taner Birsel) taking a police suspect (Firat Tanis) to a murder site, if only he could remember where it was. The light dims, thunder rolls in, the police and their cohorts shelter for the night at the remote farm of the mayor, where they eat, talk and doze. Then the mayor's daughter comes in to serve coffee, and her appearance feels as momentous and life-changing as a goddess's in a classical myth: she's the sort of beauty to make men think of death. The girl is gone in minutes, and yet she haunts the rest of the film like a moral hangover, in which both doctor and prosecutor confront a truth about themselves that was previously hidden. Ceylan's storytelling is so enigmatic you can't be sure you've "got" it even when you have: much of its meaning is locked within the silences and dark-eyed gazes of these middle-aged men. Its length seems immaterial. It could go on for another two-and-a-half hours and you'd still be sitting there, mesmerised.