You’ll find more drama, pathos and cinematic grace in just the weather throughout this astonishing film than in the entirety of all other springtime releases. A sometimes exasperating, often challenging three-hour police procedural film, it’s certainly not for everybody, but Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s sixth feature is a beguiling modern fable with a hypnotic draw like no other. We spend an entire night in the Turkish countryside with three vehicles full of local policemen, the state prosecutor, shovel wielding skivvies and two prisoners who it soon transpires are murder suspects, and the search is on for a missing corpse. Night has fallen and much of the film is lit in extraordinary fashion by cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki, either by the moon or from car headlights. Long scenes of immersive dialogue trade screen time with mother nature as Ceylan builds atmosphere with the sights and sounds of this wild terrain. We are hauled in through a heavy fog, the director’s inert style purposeful and majestic.

The details of the murder are never revealed but it seems to be a crime of passion, although lacking in screen time are the women who are central to the movie’s theme. At one point the police chief says at the centre of every mystery is a woman and this is certainly the case with Ceylan, each of his most masculine of characters are driven by a feminine figure off centre stage. This simple construct rings true in the bewildering 20 minutes that sit at the heart of the film. The group stop at the mayor’s house for something to eat and a much needed rest, as the host’s daughter provides comfort to the men their raw emotions are laid open for all to see. An incredible turn that joins both Ceylan’s Distant and Climates in the ranks of the classics, this is cinema at its most noble.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 37 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2012