Good news: you live in America! Bad news: the best reviewed new movie at the box office this weekend is in Turkish and you probably have to be living in Manhattan, West Los Angeles, or Downtown Chicago to get anywhere near it. Most moviegoers won’t notice, since they’ll be throwing away a hard earned $12.50 to see the disaster that is The Devil Inside. Shudder.
But back to the Turkish masterpiece. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is not about a Mediterranean princess locked in a tower by some evil sultan. It’s about all of us – and why we do the things we do . . . and why we even bother to try and understand them. Some things are inscrutable, the film tells us, and it’s perhaps best that we give up trying to uncover their secrets.
The story is about six men – two brothers, a doctor, a police officer, a federal prosecutor and a truck driver – who travel across the desolate Anatolian landscape to find a body that the brothers claim to have killed. For those who are unaware, Anatolia is the vast expanse of Turkey that sits in Asia Minor, connecting the Mediterranean to the Middle East.
The suspects hardly admit their guilt outright, but they don’t exactly deny it either. It’s as though they want all these men to travel along with them for an undisclosed period of time simply to . . . well, simply to. There is no rhyme or reason here; yes, a gruesome murder must be solved and its executors punished by the law. But before that can happen, a great deal of nothing has to happen first.
The men spend most of the movie making small talk – telling each other about their families, spouses, where they grew up, and which desserts are their favorite. As the conversation grows more trivial, the murder dissipates from view, until dawn when it suddenly becomes clear again that that is why all these men are assembled.
The film is at times excruciatingly slow. Some who sit through it will wonder why there is no plot. There is a plot, but it isn’t a standard linear one, and it seems to exist more in the interconnected consciousness of the characters than it does in the real world. If you’re willing to go along for the ride, the payoff can be quite rich. But it’s an uneasy, tedious, and at times painfully gruesome journey.