Turkish Mike Leigh

This is my review of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia [DVD].

Three carloads of Turkish policemen with accompanying prosecutor, doctor, diggers and two hand-cuffed prisoners arrested for murder search the bleak Anatolian countryside for the victim’s grave. It is dark, perhaps because the prime suspect has already been leading them on a wild goose chase for some time. Another possible reason is the pure incompetence of the police which often borders on comedy, together with the lack of resources to do their job effectively – this being the complaint of others encountered on the way.

In the course of a night and the following day, we are given an insight into Turkish life. We learn much about the characters’ attitudes through their banter and confidences, and their facial expressions in some fine pieces of naturalistic acting. I was reminded at times of Mike Leigh, in the authentic scenes which could well be based on improvisation. The dialogue is often quite like a stage play, with little action, for which the subtitles are sometimes barely adequate.

My main problem is the extremely slow pace, with the film taking two-and-a-half hours, which would have been transformed for me into a much more powerful work if reduced by at least sixty minutes. Also, vital information on the motive for the murder is delivered so quickly that I had to check the plot summary on Wikipedia to confirm what had happened.

So, although this is a plot with great potential, well-acted with striking photography I cannot give it more than 3 stars.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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