Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir zamanlar Anadolu'da) (2011)



Once Upon a Time in Anatolia by Nuri Bilge Ceylan starts with three men getting drunk together with their voices muted and the viewer guessing the nature of their conversation, only to be followed by a scene with three cars lighting up the desolate steppes of Anatolia, criss-crossing through the roads. This time you see a couple of cops with another hand-cuffed character, the one who was in initial shot but you’re unable to recognize him given the dark. There’s a prosecutor, who is in charge of the investigation, a cop, a doctor, gendarmerie forces, grave diggers, a driver and two suspects, who are also brothers.


                                                         Image Credit: Memento Films

While the commissioner Naci takes the suspect Kenan from one location to another to determine the place where he and his brother buried the victim, Yasar after killing him, the rest of the cast including the doctor, driver and prosecutor reflect on the times. Given the dark and his drinking Kenan is unable to locate where he had buried the victim, while the prosecutor unravels to the doctor a peculiar case in which a beautiful woman predicts her death five months in advance and dies after giving birth to a child.

Frustrated and riddled by the search, the team decides to visit a nearby town. They are treated well at the mayor’s house where his beautiful daughter gets everyone’s attention. The girl evokes different emotions in the characters while they are stupefied by her beauty. The doctor tries to get more details from prosecutor about the woman he was talking about as he gets suspicious about obscure nature of her death. The prosecutor tells that it was heart attack and doctor points that there are certain drugs that can actually trigger it. The prosecutor in the end confesses to the doctor that it was no one else but his own wife who found him with another woman and lingers as to how she killed herself to punish him for the rest of his life. At this point Kenan breaks down and tells that the victim’s son is actually his biological son and that he killed Yasar after a fight that ensued after the truth slipped off his tongue.

The following day they continue their search. Kenan is in his senses and is able to tell the exact location. The body of victim is not covered entirely with a part of his head out of the grave. There’s a dog sitting on top his grave who has possibly tried to dig his grave. It is difficult to tell if it is the same dog that victim feeds in the initial shot. They find the victim completely tied up to which Kenan reasons that they did so in order to fit him in the car. The prosecutor makes his report and the corpse is handed over to the doctor to carry out the autopsy.


                                                          Image Credit: Memento Films

While doing autopsy the doctor finds out that there is dirt in his lungs pointing to the fact that he was buried alive, perhaps the reason why he was tied up so badly. While the truth eludes the prosecutor as well as the commissioner, the doctor decides to hide the fact in the report glancing from his window at the son and the widowed wife of the victim walking down the steppe.

The film comprises of long shots and takes time to get into the nature of its characters. While Naci is a worn out police officer troubled by condition of his son, who has some ailment, doctor Cemal is divorced and reflective, the prosecutor Nusret is self-confident and guilty (for causing his wife’s death unconsciously), while the driver is only worried about making money from the whole affair. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia lingers on a number of themes, one being the problems the young ones have to face as a result of sins committed by elders and another being how women become the reason for people committing heinous crimes. The movie demands patience as well as attention from its viewers, something that would help them to better understand the characters. The film won Jury Grand Prize at the Cannes.