Slow down and savor ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, April 4, 2012 3:43pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

You know how there’s a “slow food” movement happening in dining, an approach that emphasizes sitting and eating and savoring food over the course of a long meal, as a reaction against the fast food culture in which we shovel bad food into our mouths really, really quickly?

There’s something of a “slow film” culture, too. Filmmakers all over the world are creating immersive, deliberate movies that draw you in with their very slowness. “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” is one of those movies, a murder mystery that gradually reveals an entire system of life in its corner of Turkey.

The film is directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose excellent work includes “Climates” and “Three Monkeys.” In this one, he covers a rural region of Anatolia, where a group of authorities drive around at night, suspects in tow, looking for the spot a murder victim has been buried.

This search, which takes up more than half the movie, has an almost “Fargo”-like black humor to it. The cops bicker over styles of yogurt, the exasperated police chief must deal with a call from his wife, and the suspect claims not to remember exactly where the body was left because he was drunk at the time, which means the line of cars, usually seen from a far distance under eerily beautiful night skies, must continually drive over the next hillside to try their luck at a new location.

Ceylan pauses for haunting details as he shifts to a darker tone: the way the wind blows across the high grasses as a bumbling-yet-philosophical cop wonders whether they might look back on this night and describe it as a kind of fairy tale (thus the “Once upon a time” in the title), or the camera following an apple that bounces from a tree and rolls down a hillside and into a quietly running creek.

We begin to focus on two weary characters who might have stepped from a Chekhov play, a prosecutor (Taner Birsel) and a doctor (Muhammet Uzuner). But with a movie like this, the more we get to the know them, the greater the mystery becomes, and we sense that the murder has greater resonance in their lives than we might have suspected.

I think we get the information we need to answer the questions about the murder that are left behind in the film’s enigmatic fade-out. You have to be watching the movie closely to gather that information, but by watching closely you’ll be more actively involved as a viewer, and the ending will hit harder than you’ll be expecting.

So: See some fast movies, for sure. But make time for the slow-film movement, and for this slow movie in particular.

“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (3½ stars)

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan uses a murder mystery to create an enigmatic portrait of a rural police investigation. The very slow movement of the film allows the film to become philosophical mood piece, in which clues must be watched closely to determine the solution to the mystery. In Turkish, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter.

Showing: Northwest Film Forum.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Whidbey duo uses fencing to teach self-discipline, sportsmanship to youth

Bob Tearse and Joseph Kleinman are sharing their sword-fighting expertise with young people on south Whidbey Island.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

A giant Bigfoot creation made by Terry Carrigan, 60, at his home-based Skywater Studios on Sunday, April 14, 2024 in Monroe, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The 1,500-pound Sasquatch: Bigfoot comes to life in woods near Monroe

A possibly larger-than-life sculpture, created by Terry Carrigan of Skywater Studios, will be featured at this weekend’s “Oddmall” expo.

Craig Chambers takes orders while working behind the bar at Obsidian Beer Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Obsidian Beer Hall takes over former Toggle’s space in downtown Everett

Beyond beer, the Black-owned taphouse boasts a chill vibe with plush sofas, art on the walls and hip-hop on the speakers.

Glimpse the ancient past in northeast England

Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73 miles across the isle. It’s still one of England’s most thought-provoking sights.

I accidentally paid twice for my hotel. Can I get a refund?

Why did Valeska Wehr pay twice for her stay at a Marriott property in Boston? And why won’t Booking.com help her?

How do you want your kids to remember you when they grow up?

Childhood flies by, especially for parents. So how should we approach this limited time while our kids are still kids?

Dalton Dover performs during the 2023 CMA Fest on Friday, June 9, 2023, at the Spotify House in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Red Hot Chili Pipers come to Edmonds, and country artist Dalton Dover performs Friday as part of the Everett Stampede.

wisteria flower in Japan
Give your garden a whole new dimension with climbing plants

From clematis and jasmine to wisteria and honeysuckle, let any of these vine varieties creep into your heart – and garden.

Great Plant Pick: Dark Beauty Epimedium

What: New foliage on epimedium grandiflorum Dark Beauty, also known as Fairy… Continue reading

While not an Alberto, Diego or Bruno, this table is in a ‘Giacometti style’

Works by the Giacometti brothers are both valuable and influential. Other artists’ work is often said to be in their style.

The Ford Maverick has seating for five passengers. Its cargo bed is 4.5 feet long. (Photo provided by Ford)
2024 Ford Maverick compact pickup undergoes a switch

The previous standard engine is now optional. The previous optional engine is now standard.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.