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One of the best films I have seen this decade was “Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da” (Once Upon A Time in Anatolia) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Strange that it took me so long to check out the other, also quite successful (and Oscar-nominated, if I remember correctly) “Üç Maymun” (Three Monkeys), but that’s how it goes… it requires several weeks of desperately checking out the cinema schedule and finally giving up hope that anything new and interesting will come out new to go back to the repertoire.

Three Monkeys starts with an accident, and takes the audience along a quiet but nonetheless dramatic downward spiral of the fallout from that accident. As it happens early on, it should not spoil things to say that the driver causing the accident uses his position and money trying to free himself of the consequences. The film is about there always being consequences: not just the affected families, but also the wrong-doer who got away with it experiences changes he has not foreseen.

As usual with this particular director, the plot is less important than the acting and the atmosphere. And the small family in the centre of the film is splendidly cast: Yavuz Bingol as Eyup, Hatice Aslan as his wife Hacer, and their son Ismail played by Ahmet Rifat Sungar all are exactly the way they have to be. They do not build up their arguments and discussions to become great elaborate dramas, there is no artificial escalation of emotions. There are emotions and arguments, but most of the time they are subdued. There are outbursts and threats, but most of the time they end of half as dramatic as when they are voiced. People argue and fight, but they usually also stop fighting and start talking a bit later.

While this is a family drama and a little bit of a critique of social injustice and the behaviour of the powerful, it is at the same time beautiful to watch. Roger Ebert mentioned in his review this gallery with stills from the film, and I can only say: when did a small family drama ever look so astonishing?

Ceylan’s new film “Winter Sleep” out this year… that’s something I really look forward to!

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