Once Upon a Time in Anatolia


also known as: Bir zamanlar Anadolu'da

directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 157 minutes

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"It needs to be long, and it needs to be indirect, because the film is about how sad truths can be revealed during the slow process of doing a job." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

In the dead of night, a group of men (among them, a police commissioner, a prosecutor, a doctor and a murder suspect) drive through the Anatolian countryside, the serpentine roads and rolling hills lit only by the headlights of their cars. They are searching for a corpse, the victim of a brutal murder. The suspect, who claims he was drunk, can't remember where he buried the body. As night wears on, details about the murder emerge and the investigators' own secrets come to light. In the Anatolian steppes nothing is what it seems. When the body is found, the real questions begin.

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3 members found this review helpful Created over 1 year ago.

Ceylan is one of the greatest living filmmakers. His films require patience. This film in particular felt, the first time I saw it, like it had multiple endings. But none of them were as painful as the true finale. I can't think of as affective a use of sound for an ending than occurs in this film.

Top reviewer
2 members found this review helpful Created about 1 year ago.

A very beautiful and complex film. In interviews I've read, for instance his interview with CineEuropa, Ceylan has downplayed comparisons with Sergio Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West." He has claimed that the title is based on a comment made by a person during the murder investigation upon which the film is based, but I find the contrast striking. Leone's film features rough frontier justice in the vast expanse of the American West as it was settled (well, resettled while the Native Americans were brutally dealt with), but Anatolia in this film is a landscape equally vast (the Western Steppes of Asia) where instead of frontier justice, there is a system of suffocating bureaucracy that traps the petty local officials just as much as the population. I felt the weight of the 4,000 years of history oppressing the characters in the largely empty landscape. Some will find the film overly long, but I think that is part of the beauty of the film--the viewer is stuck with the plodding pace of life there where every field and hillside is so indistinguishable. Even the way the victim dies evidences the suffocating power of rural Anatolia. Events just happen, stories get told and misremembered, and the characters and viewers are left with the struggle of making sense of it all. The film also has the most effective use of diegetic sound I can recall, especially right at the end.

Top reviewer
2 members found this review helpful Created almost 2 years ago.

About a half hour too long for me, but...this movie is a must-see no matter what I think.

Anyone who sets out to make a movie that takes non-God-focused spirituality and the "irrational" seriously has a hard road ahead of them these days. Ceylan takes on this task and I think succeeds completely. Watch for the scene with the lantern about halfway through. The moment of transcendence that the characters experience is completely believable to the audience. I can't think of another film I've seen recently that accomplishes that feat so thoroughly. The only title I'm coming up with is 'Days of Heaven" and that was released 35 years ago.

Created 6 months ago.


Created 7 months ago.

This is a wonderful film, men going about their sad lives and tasks and revealing themselves obliquely.

Created 7 months ago.

I really wanted to like this but it kept losing me. It dances on the cusp of being a really good film but misses the mark.

Created 11 months ago.

Loved this movie.

Created about 1 year ago. Updated 11 months ago.

As everyone has already stated, this film requires patience, as do all of the author's films. All good things come to those who wait indeed. This film is a monumental force, not like a tornado or hurricane but more like a gradual flood, a rising tide. It is nothing short of mastery.

Top reviewer
1 member found this review helpful Created over 1 year ago.

There is quiet space that reveals more truth in these characters than all the words spoken. I am worn down but captivated by its familiarity. Yet there is something emerging through each moment I did not see, a revelation that speaks to more than the circumstances, something striking and brutal.

Created almost 3 years ago.

Not bad at all. Sucks that I had to watch this on VOD -- this film deserved a wider release.

1 member found this review helpful Created almost 3 years ago.

Once upon a time in Anatolia - was a formidable and complex set of relationships of the characters filled with sympathy, predjudice, tantrums, and life & death all balanced in a confined space.

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