Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Winter Sleep

Reviews - Winter Sleep

Winter Sleep

Reviewed By Stephen Pye

Winter Sleep
Winter Sleep
I find myself writing this having left Keswick and now living in the Eden valley. On Sunday morning I took the Holy Communion service at Melmerby. The church has a clear glass window in the east end, unusual as the Victorians covered most of them with stained glass. It was wonderfully distracting looking out to the snow covered Pennines towering over the church; Fiend's fell, where the Helm wind rises, was dazzling.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest film 'Winter's Sleep' is set in a landscape of unusual beauty in Cappadocia. The houses are built into the rock or rather appear to emerge from it. The Steppes are covered in snow. Poverty abounds, but so do fire lit rooms and Japanese tourists. The main character Aydin has inherited the ancestral lands which include the village and hotel where he lives with his estranged wife, and sister.

The bleakness and beauty of the Steppe is mirrored in the personalities portrayed.
Aydin, brilliantly played by Haruk Bilginer, is a haunted character. He is engaged on a project to write a history of Turkish Theatre, but in the 196 minutes of the film is invariably filmed having long and tortuous conversations with his wife, sister, and friend. He is often antagonistic, mainly peevish and manipulative and hard to like. As Jane Campion commented after the Cannes jury awarded it the Palm D'Or: "Ceylan exposes his characters to the most intense scrutiny, sparing them nothing". Think "The Shining" but rewritten by Chekov!

That is really what the film is concerned with; the betrayal and petty jealousies which form part of the human condition. Our own fiends you might say. So, whilst the film has been rightly praised for its capturing the beauty and harshness of the landscape, it is the inscape which is most captivating. Ceylan's films often have a stage like quality and this is at its most pronounced in "Winter Sleep".

Some critics, and no doubt some of our audience, found it a hard watch. I have to say I was upset when it finished! I will never be able to listen to Schubert's piano sonata no. 20 again without thinking of this film.

Maybe I agree with Peter Bradshaw (Guardian Film Critic) when he writes it is not his best work. I think that accolade belongs to 'Uzak', but it is a towering work from one of the greatest film directors of the 21st century.

Next Sunday we have 'I Origins', a very different film from America; love story, sci-fi, Darwinian investigation..? You choose.

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