We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," which won the 2011 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, is 150 minutes long, and its story unfolds slowly and obliquely. I tell you now so you won't complain later. It needs to be long, and it needs to be indirect, because the film is about how sad truths can be revealed during the slow process of doing a job. The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan doesn't slap us with big dramatic moments, but allows us to live along with his characters as things occur to them.
The first two hours take place at night on a vast plain in Anatolia, undulating greenly beneath the moon. From a great height, we see three sets of headlights snaking down an empty road. Distant figures get out, meander in a field, return to the cars. In closer shots, we discover the caravan is in search of a corpse. The cars contain a police chief, a prosecutor, a doctor, a driver, two suspects and a man with a laptop who will type out testimony.
This search will not end until just before dawn. The first suspect has already signed a confession, but is having trouble remembering where the body was buried because he was drunk at the time. The second suspect seems incapable of remembering anything. All the men know the local countryside, but it looks much the same; one watering trough for livestock looks like another, and what does the first suspect mean by a "round tree"?
The men are tired. They know one another well. They get out of the cars many times and poke around. The night is filled with barking dogs. Rain clouds are drawing in front of the moon. There is distant thunder. The driver offers the prosecutor a cream biscuit, and he asks for another. A story is told about a woman who predicted the day of her death and keeled over on schedule. A local mayor is awakened and offers them tea and food.