This year’s Palme D’Or winner is a slow burning but very powerful drama that owes an obvious and acknowledged debt to Chekhov’s short stories.
One of its paradoxes is that Ceylan spends over three hours on subject matter that Chekhov would have dealt with in a few pages. With its brooding shots of wintry landscapes and frequent, long-held close-ups, the film captures its characters’ sense of entrapment and bewilderment at their own plight.
Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a retired actor running a hotel in the mountains of Anatolia. He is well-educated and prosperous and has a beautiful young wife. Nonetheless, he is miserable, chafing against his provincial surroundings and continually bickering with his wife and his sharp-tongued sister. He thinks himself a decent and enlightened man but behaves in aloof, patrician fashion to his tenants.
Ceylan’s probing, inquisitive style is the antithesis to the glib storytelling of the typical Hollywood film. Winter Sleep demands patience, but if you last the course, you will soon understand why it so enraptured the Cannes jury.
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