Friday, April 20, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: Part Two

Image from Once Upon a Time ...
I couldn’t get to sleep after the movie last night.  When we came home, Kelvin wanted to speculate about what he had seen.  I wanted to go to the external reviews that are posted under every film on the International Movie Data Base and see what newspaper reviews were saying about that film.  I had already made that trip (to the external reviews) before watching the movie, scanning a few of the columns.  But now I was in earnest, since the movie left me with so many questions.

I woke up this morning, still restless after the movie last night. First of all,  I was looking for the answer to who was the protagonist in the film?  The suspect?  Suspect #2?  Were there three protagonists, all of them explored in the seemingly incidental stories told by the doctor, the chief of police and the prosecutor?

I wanted to find a film list or bulletin board what people were saying about the introduction to the movie last night. Or to find one of my old classmates after the movie, but I didn’t see anyone there and in fact the showing was so poorly attended.  Probably only 20 people there and I didn’t know any of them.   I was looking for someone else into whom it had been drilled about how important the first 2 – 4 minutes of a film is. I took that concept away from the Biopics Film class with a vengeance.  That opening sequence when so much is being set up is crucial to understanding a film.  In this case, the opening sequence comes to the screen and then the screen goes black, and the name of the film, the producer and director and the actors roll by in black and white before the colour of another film sequence begins.  It is that little intro that has been bothering, no confusing me.  The rest of the film is sub-titled, but not this part of the film, so there must be enough in that sequence to set up what the director wants us to look for.  These questions or ideas go by for me.

Is the director asking us to explore focus:  The film framing a window and through the opaque glass we can see a television and hear voices.  When that rack focus takes us to see the faces of the people inside the room, we can see men, sitting around, eating and drinking.

Is the director asking us to think about what we consume, how that affects us, and what is left over to be given to the dogs?  I say this because later in the film we discover that the murder was precipitated by lips that were too loose during a drinking session.

Is the director asking us to think about a very small place, germane to the action of a road film, for in fact we are “on the road” for a significant part of the film.  Think about the sounds of the film in that sequence – dogs barking and the noise of traffic on a highway passing the building.  At one time we even lose track of the action as a semi-trailer drives by between us and the window we are looking through.

Another question about the film is about the director’s gamble with time.  The modern audience is used to a film that is less than two hours.  This film is  almost three hours long and we rarely see  those shot sequences that are edited until we see 30 shots in 15 seconds or less.  None of that – we are asked to stay in the moment, think with the characters, pause while answers to questions are being formulated, watch the face of the listeners instead of watching those asking the questions.  When I know beforehand that a foreign film will be slow-paced, I think to myself ... I am going to treat this film as though I am sitting on a train, watching through the window while some country I have never been to, rolls by.  And in the case of this film, if nothing else happened, I felt as though I had a trip to Turkey, or at the very least been to a small village in the Anatolian steeps of Turkey.  And when the evening ended, I wanted to go out to a Turkish restaurant where I could eat and talk about what I had just seen.

Image from Once Upon a Time ...
A feminist perspective:  This film was about men.  Or was it?  We saw two women, and photographs of a third.  That is all.  Now that I think about it, perhaps there were more women.  Some in a crowd scene and a woman delivering hot bread.  What stuck out for me was a troubling line about women.  A generality.  At one point the police chief tells the others that when he was in Police College, the instructor told him to look for a woman at the baseline of every crime. And in 20 years he has found this to be true. This morning I am trying to put that line in perspective, with what the director was asking us to look for in this story.  As well, one of the reviewers noted that the Clark Gable look-a-like prosecutor asked for a second cream biscuit, when he was offered one by a soldier.  I couldn’t make sense of why the reviewer pointed that out ... until this moment ... and we shall talk about that once you have seen the film as well.

Who can believe all of that is being set up in the first short sequence of the film?  And I have only started talking about this, but I must end here.

To answer your question, Rebecca?  Should you teach this film next year? Absolutely. I don’t know if your students can slow down enough to watch and synthesize a film that takes almost three hours, since in law school they seem to be asked to read so much at such speed.  Can they slow down to give it their full attention?  Or will you see them texting their friends or doing their assignments on laptops as they watch?

I can say, at the very least ... go rent the film and see for yourself.  It is rich in the nuances of what happens before crimes are sorted out in a court room.  And deliciously, the script is based on a true story.  If you wait until I get there, perhaps we can spend an exquisite afternoon together in front of your large movie screen ... and we will go eat Turkish food when it is over.

1 comment:

  1. The post is designed to drive a person crazy, until they break down and rent the film to watch! :) yes... lets watch together, then grab a bite at Meze Meze down the street.