Winter Sleep is a 2014 Turkish drama film directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and it is an epic, three hour long movie about social conditions and relationships mostly regarding the poor and wealthy. It also won Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Similar to ‘Boyhood’, the story in this movie is non-existent which doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. Quite on contrary, it is terrific and very smart because the movie is filled with many dialogues, discussions and rows and they are the story, they tell the story and lend to excellent characterization and superb themes along the way. Speaking of themes, they are extraordinary as well as the subject matter. It perfectly explores the troubles of living in a poor town or village as well as the troublesome relationships between rich and poor people and how bitter the poor can get towards them. It also explores the protagonist’s dilemmas with his sister and wife in a moving way while also dealing with his accused arrogance and hypocrisy.
The highlight is the argument between the main character and his sister which is very realistic, it tells so much and is an all around powerful scene, but the sequence near the end with his wife Nihal giving the money to her poor neighbors who have troubles and him just throwing it all in the fireplace is such a striking scene in so many ways. It is perfectly executed, emotionally engaging, superbly acted and above all very realistic and relevant, showing us once again how bitter the poor can be and how some things can never be changed or improved in such relationships. It is a very powerful scene that sticks with you long after you’ve seen the film.
But there are some problems regarding this talkative approach. First and foremost, the running time is definitely bloated. Yes, the movie deals with so many different things and characters and it should have been long, but not this long. Secondly, because of that dragged running time, some scenes do feel repetitive and go for too long. There are literally not too many scenes in this movie which is three hours long which just goes to show how dragged the scenes are. It is great for those powerful sequences, but not with those less interesting ones. Also the beginning could have been better realized and I wanted more scenes with the neighbors and his sister, instead of his relationship and emotional troubles with his wife because those are never as interesting as the former ones.
The character development here is absolutely amazing. You feel like you know each and every character not only because they are so well realized but also because they are so realistically portrayed. Aydin is great as this conflicting writer with troublesome negative attitude towards everyone and you get to explore his behavior and weaknesses through the discussions with other characters. Necla as his bitter and very discontented sister is probably the most grounded character here for her attitude and the way she talks ring true. Nihal is also great both in her relationship with Aydin and of course her part in that striking scene near the end. And the rest of the characters are all very well developed as well. The characterization is along with the themes the biggest asset Winter Sleep has.
The acting is downright superb with each performance being extremely good, but the highlights are of course Haluk Bilginer and Melisa Sozen bringing their characters to life perfectly. As for the direction, it is also very professional as is the cinematography. The editing is of course problematic as I stated before and the tone is not handled that well because it can at times be too difficult and bitter to bear. But it is authentic and realistic in its execution with terrific themes and excellent dialogue.
With amazing subject matter and themes beautifully explored, superb approach with a lot of clever discussions, all around terrific performances and amazing character development, Winter Sleep is a bit too long and it can be too difficult and bitter to bear, but it is mostly a very good and important movie which perfectly explores the troublesome relationships between poor and rich people bringing the necessary emotional intensity, superb acting as well as fantastic dialogue and a couple of truly powerful sequences that stick with you long after you’ve seen the movie.