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Film Review - Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
This is such a delightful, moody film with atmosphere and composition in practically every frame. The movie begins with a dark scene shot through a dirty glass window showing three men breaking bread and by turns talking seriously and joking. A dog barks in the background and one of the men gets up, grabs some food and goes out to feed the dog.

A short interlude for credits later we see three vehicles with piercing headlights driving through the rural landscape, stopping ever so often, looking for the evidence of a crime. About three fourths of the movie is shot in the dark, following the three cars around the desolate Anatolian landscape. Through dialog that sounds so casual as to seem completely spontaneous, we learn more about the main characters - the fatalist police chief, his flunky, the pensive doctor, the shocked man in fisticuffs who leads the cops from one abandoned field to another and the prosecutor who once resembled Clark Gable.

There are two spectacular moments in the film, delivered unexpectedly but consistent with the tension that precedes them. In the first, the doctor is confronted by a horrific mask carved onto the rock in an open field. This happens in a flash of lightning when the doctor is relieving himself. In the second scene, the doctor again, no less vulnerable, is sitting as a guest in the room of a village mayor, waiting for electricity to be restored. As the darkness persists, in walks the mayor's daughter, so shockingly beautiful that the doctor virtually melts as she offers him tea.

The movie's tone is unhurried, and it reminded me in many ways of two of Bong Joon-Ho's films, Memories of Murder and Mother. If you enjoyed those two movies, you most certainly must check out Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.

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