Winter Sleep

Winter Sleep ★★★

It's called 'Winter Sleep'? Well I get the 'Sleep' part. Oh, I hate to return with a review like this.

So as my rating may suggest, yeah, I wasn't a fan of this one. And it's tough because any detractors of this movie seem scarce to me and the majority, love this film a lot! I feel like I'm even more in a minority, but let me clarify, I don't hate this movie. I kinda liked it. In fact I think it's good when looking at it from an objective point. Or I realized that after the movie was done, that it was well made... And I was excited for this movie too, I was pumped! The director of this film made "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" which was not only one of my favorite films from that year, but one of my favorite movies ever made. I thought it was one of the greatest films of the decade so far and gave it a perfect score. Not everyone liked the film as much as me, which is fine, but then hearing the buzz about the directors next film got me excited! And it seemed to get even more praise, then his previous film! A character-study against philosophy, it sounded like an Ingmar Bergman-esque film! Eagerly I turned it on and... it just didn't mesh with me. I'm sorry.

That statement alone really sums up my thoughts and feelings after watching this, as I rolled the film around my brain trying to decide what I disliked about it. I tried deconstructing it more, and looked at all the different parts in it's forms. Was it the cinematography? No, that was actually beautiful, Incredibly well shot. The acting was great, the dialogue, layered with philosophy. Was it the Characters? Not really, for the main character, is fairly well defined and I understood what he was going through and what statement the film is making. Despite being mainly about this one man, there are plenty of other characters with their own personalities and scenes. It's moments like these, where I'm glad I picked up the practice of film criticism, where I can take I movie I didn't care for, but start analyzing it and find things that I appreciate about it. But enough of this jabber.

So what didn't I like? I wasn't emotionally invested. I know that's subjective so let me put it this way. "Winter Sleep" feels more like a philosophy discussion than a film. The movie was mostly filled with characters just spouting philosophical dialogue, while a progressing and interesting story seemed to take a backseat to that. Now don't get me wrong, I love Philosophical films! Heck, I love philosophy! I'm taking a couple courses right now and read some Dostoyevsky from time to time. My problem is this is a film, not a philosophy lecture in one of my classes. Yes, many films are about philosophy, as I mentioned, many of my favorites are, but when I watch a film I want to watch a FILM. The best philosophical films don't just have the characters recite a bunch of egghead ideas, they're works of fiction that exemplify the ideals and theories on a much larger plane, whether that be a fantasy, or a straight forward drama. It reminds me of another movie I don't care for "Waking Life" (Yes, I'm making a lot of friends today aren't I?) To be honest I should've loved that movie more, being enamored with the ideas of dreams and animation. But once again, it felt like a rotoscoped documentary, and never once felt dreamlike. "Waking lIfe", like "Winter Sleep" just spouts philosophy without really showing it in a relatable, or engaging way.

Take my favorite Tarkovsky film "Solaris" for example. Yes, it's full of intellectuals discussing the universe and things like that, but there's a story. More than that, but an existential dilemma which makes our protagonist Kelvin further question his life, the mind, the heart, relationships, and life altogether. In addition the story is much better paced. Solaris is a slow movie, but doesn't linger long... er too long at least... while getting to the plot. First thirty minutes, we meet Kelvin and learn about him. Next thirty minutes, he boards the space station and meets the two other scientists. Soon after, Hari appears and many events representing the ideas of the cognitive and conscious mind ensue. And Solaris is only roughly thirty minutes less than "Winter Sleep" which on that note, "Winter Sleep" is 3 hours and 10 minutes of characters babbling philosophy and how it relates to our distasteful protagonist. You have to sit through three hours of a philosophy lecture.

The film is a study of a selfish, terrible, man, and that's interesting. Despite that I love that, I've seen it done before and much better than this in my opinion. Just my personal input but I felt like this movie should have been partly comedic. I think some humor would not only spice up the story, but give the film a little more character. After examining it, there is a story here, it's just that for the first two hours, it's minimally dull, and something resembling an arc happens a little later. We do get some interesting conversations, and some events here and there take place. I like the protagonists encounters with the biker. In a way he sort of envies him. He's poor, unintelligent, and reckless, yet he's so free and enlightened. So there is a story but as mentioned before, Ceylan seems to want to tell philosophy around a setting, rather than a story inspired by philosophy.

Now I know one issue that will come up is the debate on 'story' and 'style over substance' Many film goers focus more on the presentation, or the technical aspect of the film. And while I can still be like this, it's important to remember that the story should come first. Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney said that a movie is nothing without a good story. The one exception to me is experimental films. If you're movie is 2001: A Space Odyssey, a Terrence Malick, or a David Lynch film, you're more focused on the visceral experience that audiences will get, and that's great! But if you're film is story based, and has a clear story being told, then you better make sure that it's good. Everything, the cinematography, the music, the performances, all the components that make up a film, must align with the theme, motif, or emotion of the story. I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but the film didn't feel like it wanted to tell a story.

So as I conclude all my thoughts this is a good movie, or at least had many good things about it. There was a story, there were developed characters, beautiful cinematography, even interesting philosophy, and a character who personified it well, but the film is dragged down by one issue. That the film seems bogged down by over-explaining it's philosophical themes, and trying to be smart by just rambling for three hours about it. I almost feel like this movie is for people new to this kind of slow, thought-provoking filmmaking. "Whoa, I'm not engaged, but this is a smart movie, so it must be great!" Sorry, I kind of know that's not true. I have a lot of friends who are very well caught up with world cinema and love this movie. Who knows, you may like it too. It is good, and after consideration, I guess I like it. I just wish this could have been more of a movie. I don't want to know what this philosophy is, I can do that on my own time, I want to know what the philosophy is to this director, what does it mean to him? Well I've rambled long enough. I think this is still something I recommend whether it sounds like your cup of tea or not, check it out.


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