Capsule review: The synopsis of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's fable of a late night corpse-recovery exercise reads like a kind of CSI: Anatolian Steppe procedural. However, this profound Turkish oddity refuses to be boxed in by genre convention, and made for one of my most rewarding cinema experiences of 2011.
With just the unreliable memory of the accused as their guide, a tired convoy of swarthy detectives snakes through the dark, looking for a dead man whose resting place is the geographical equivalent of a needle in a haystack. An existential journey ensues, lit by hatchback headlight. Over the course of this transformative night, men who are familiar to each other start to see themselves in a new light, as their superficial small talk gives way to remembrance of their absent women. By the time the day breaks, small clues have revealed sombre truths about human nature.
The film has a lengthy running time, yes, but Nuri Bilge Ceylan uses it responsibly and in service of his characters.
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Watch 'Once Upon a Time In Anatolia'
SBS Viceland, Midday, Thursday 21 March
SBS on Demand after broadcast
Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2000
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan