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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da)

Modern Masters

/ Feature Narrative / Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina / 2011 / Colour
In Turkish / Arabic, English subtitles
Rated: Parental guidance advised for viewers under the age of 15. Individuals under the age of 15 are not admitted into cinemas unless accompanied by an individual aged 18 or over.

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Late at night on the dimly lit Anatolian steppe, a group of men – among them a doctor, a prosecutor, a few village policemen, some locals armed with shovels and a murder suspect in handcuffs – drive about in several cars, searching for an elusive crime scene. In the morning, they find what they are looking for. The investigation continues on its course.

As its title suggests, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ has at its core a straightforward tale – but one that gives rise to a complex reflection on life. The film’s night-time section alternates between scenes of the bumbling and bickering of the men as they uncomfortably go about their gruesome task, and extended moments of quiet, during which the story increasingly focuses on the doctor and the prosecutor, both of whom look back on their lives with bewilderment, regret and disappointment.

From a deceptively simple premise, Ceylan mines a hypnotising medley of melancholy, mystery and the trials of life, punctuated with moments of beautiful human contact and morbid humour. Often cited as the director’s masterpiece, ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ tells a small but intricately detailed story that ultimately reminds us of our own humanity.

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