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Laramie Movie Scope:
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Slow-moving film with hints of deeper meaning

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 20, 2012 -- This Turkish film is a lot more than it first seems on the surface. There are deep undercurrents of emotion visually hinted at throughout the film from beginning to end. Although there is a lot of dialog, much of this story is told visually.

The bulk of the movie takes place along a lonely rural road in the dark. Policemen with two prisoners are trying to locate the grave of a murder victim. The prisoners Kenan (Firat Tanis) and Ramazan (Burhan Yildiz) admit to the crime, but are having trouble remembering where they buried the body. They were drunk at the time. It was near water, a field and a “round tree,” but there are many similar places along the road. The search is taking far longer than the police hoped it would.

The two most educated men in the search, a regional prosecutor, Nusret (Taner Birsel) and a doctor, Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) travel together in a car during the long search, which goes on for hours. They discuss many things, but keep coming back to one strange story told by Nusret. The story goes like this: a pregnant woman tells everyone she is going to die on a certain date after the birth of her child. The date comes, she announces that she is now ready to die and, as she predicted, she dies of a heart attack.

Cemal is very interested in this story. As a doctor, he knows it is very unlikely for a person to die on a given predicted date unless they are murdered, or unless they commit suicide. He questions Nusret more on this story and it is revealed there is a lot more to the story. The woman's death is not quite the open-and-shut case Nusret thought it was, nor is the woman who Nusret said she was when he first told the story to Cemal.

The murder is not what it first seemed to be either. More is revealed later in the film about why the murder took place. There is also some emotional connection deep under the surface between both Cemal and Kenan with the wife and son of the murdered man which causes Cemal to alter the record of the autopsy conducted near the end of the movie. This may be the result of a conversation between Cemal and another police official participating in the search, Naci (Yilmaz Erdogan) who laments that sons suffer the consequences of the sins of adults. There also seems to be an emotional connection between Kenan an Cemal. The odd reaction of the widow upon seeing the dead body of her husband may also be significant.

Some of these revelations are stated in conversations, but others are only hinted at visually, and obliquely at that. These little hints are dribbled out over the long length of this film (2.5 hours). You have to pay close attention, or you lose track of them or forget them, but they do eventually add up to something. There are those who claim it really had to take this long to tell the story. I'm not convinced of that.

This is a very slow-moving movie, but it also has its attractions, such as its beautiful cinematography by Gökhan Tiryaki, particularly the wide angle shots showing the vastness of the Turkish landscape. There is a very effective scene showing the close-up facial reactions of the men to an astonishingly beautiful woman in a small town during supper. When Kenan sees the woman's face in the lamp light, he is moved to tears, perhaps because he knows he may never again in his life see something so beautiful.

A lot of emotional ground is covered in this film involving family relationships, as well as the banality and boredom of police work and how it wears policemen down and deadens their emotions. There is even some humor in the film as the police bicker among themselves and struggle to maintain some semblance of professionalism. Because of its length, this is a very demanding film to sit through. I think that lessens its emotional impact. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)