Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Ceylan's latest film is an engrossing, often frustrating, anti-crime story (or crime anti-story).

Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey/Bosnia and Herzegovina, Masters)

Tuesday, September 13, 6:15 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Wednesday, September 14, 8:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Friday, September 16, 5:45 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre 3 (259 Richmond Street West)

At once gruelling and enrapturing, Anatolia is a crime story that one-ups the anti-catharsis of contemporary capers like Bong’s Memories of Murder and Fincher’s Zodiac. It follows some cops, soldiers, a doctor, and a lawyer through the rolling, repeating hills of rural Turkey as they drag around a man convicted of murder (Firat Tanis) who can’t seem to find the exact nook where he buried the body.

That characters are referred to almost exclusively by their titles (The Chief, The Doctor, Mr. Prosecutor) seems to certify the sense of Kafkaesque absurdity that emerges as the convoy rolls over one hill and another in a seemingly futile pursuit of the grave site, night bleeding into a scraggly, red-eyed dawn. The weariness of the crew carries onto the viewer. But boredom and frustrations give way to hazy revelation, as conversations, gestures, and re-stagings of similar events seem to intensify in consequence, however languorously. Beautifully shot and acted, Anatolia’s a crime film missing both the crime and the catharsis—one that gives a sense not just of duration and the dippy banality of procedure, but of the abiding rhythms of human motivation and, especially as it plods so deliberately into the last of its 150-odd minutes, the eternal.