Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Prior to Winter Sleep, when was the last time I watched a Turkish film? Wait, let me check the calendar to make sure I have the right date ... ah, here it is: Never.
You'd think a movie that won the Palme D'Or in 2014 would create a little buzz, but if it did, I missed it. We lost a lot when we lost most of the small movie houses which showed nothing but foreign films.
Not that Winter Sleep is hard to find -- it streams on Netflix, for one.
When I heard this was a Turkish movie, and given my vast experience of never seeing one, I assumed the major theme would involve war, politics, and/or religion. Because I've never read anything about Turkish people except as some collective entity who apparently are involved in nothing but war, politics, and/or religion.
Winter Sleep is a movie about individuals and their personal struggles: an upper middle-class, aging man-- a landlord, the owner of an hotel, and a writer of columns in a newspaper nobody reads. His true claim to fame is that once he was an actor of limited fame, and shared the screen with Omar Sharif. He tells any hotel guest willing to listen, "I remember the day Omar told me..."
The other characters merely exist in his sphere. For him, they're his misbehaving satellites, often tracking questionable orbits. The much younger wife, once star-struck, now disenchanted and straining to break her husband's gravitation pull. The property manager, the bankrupt angry tenant, the one friend, and the sister who serves as a bitter Greek chorus to most of the characters.
I suppose I'm not doing a good job selling this movie, am I? It might not help if I tell you it's over three hours long, with acres of dialogue, and initially quite reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman -- the chatty years.
But I broke this movie up into three-day chunks. Which worked perfectly fine. Because you're not going to miss a rising exposition that ends with a building exploding, a wife who is beaten, a man who is shot. The most violent act involves two inanimate objects. And you won't even be surprised when that happens. You're supposed to see it coming. Like a Chekhov story, you're asked to balance two things in your mind at one time: the dialogue, and the inevitable.
In the end, I realized that Winter Sleep doesn't owe a debt to Chekhov or Bergman, but shares their history. Most of all, it reminds me of Joyce's The Dead. A story where you watch the ego inflate and deflate, time and time again. And how we protect the ego, assuming we'll die should it deflate. So we patch it, pump it up with argument and self-deception, aggrandizement. Until finally, maybe one day, we just let it go. Watch all the hot air escape; accept the pain, for pain it is. And pick through the ruins, for what remains.
And realize comfort, perhaps even redemption, should we find our self.