Just the other day I was talking with a friend of mine about this and that, about stuff friends usually talk about. Stuff like woman, politics, bizarre things that happened to us at some point of our lives etc. We were talking about the dreams we had when we were younger, when we were full of life and energy, each of us on a different path of life. Still at the beginning though. We never talked about sports. We never do. I don’t care much for sports and after all these years he knows that much about me. So he never speaks about it though I see that itch that won’t go away, looking for just the right moment to burst out conjuring in an instant image full of unfamiliar names, heroes and deeds. Anyway, I’m rambling. You’ll get used to it. He was smoking his cigarette, exhaling smoke in the chill of the night, and though I quit smoking some time ago I bummed one and asked for a light. Reaching for a pack he looked at me, smiled, and said not a word. It was one of those nights. Words were useless. We spoke in gestures with help of objects to guide our way. Just a faint orange glow from cancer-sticks was enough to deepen the communication between us. Burning ever so closer towards the filter, but you never stop to think about that in those moments.
At some point he started speaking about movies, about what he used to like when he was younger and how even that, much like everything else, have changed. He spoke about the new wave of Romanian cinema, about brilliant things that this new generation of Romanians managed to piece together from bits of this and that, without a fraction of a budget that is available to the big studios. It wasn’t that these movies were something unseen or unheard of in any way – at least not in the topical, thematic, moody sort of way – it was just that they managed to approach the subject(s) in a creative, imaginative way that combined dark humor with satire, political agenda and social critique, deep human drama and an entire range of emotions that are felt and seen more than they are explained. He was saying how Romanian cinema managed to find a way to re-tell old stories without trying to devise some new formula that would encompass them all and present them in different light for different times. It was like they were just figuring out how to tell a story using a film as a medium and before they managed to do something like that they had to unlearn everything they knew from the mostly American films of their youth. It was something he was trying to do – to unlearn the world and to look upon it again with a different set of eyes.
While he was rambling I kept thinking about that moment, about how to unlearn the world, about what it meant in terms of the film narration. Cigarette was long gone at that point and I fought the urge to bum one more. Old habits die hard, you know… I know you do… Trying to figure out that moment he was talking about I remembered this Turkish masterpiece that I’ve seen almost a year ago. It dawned on me then. Once upon a time in Anatolia was just like the movies that he was describing. It was a nod to Sergio Leone which had, almost unbelievable in this day and age, strength to remain just a nod. I managed to connect the dots and images came back to me. Images of a long shot of an apple rolling down the hill to meet its fate, images of dark night and people huddling together in cars, trying to hush down existential fears and flights of fancy with jokes, images of landscape that was both alluring and aboding at the same time, images of brilliant people that we call actors in whose faces you could actually see the entire weight of the world, images of something that started as a procedural drama and ended like something completely different, and much more interesting than another cops & killers kind of story, images that made 150 minutes fly by just like that, images that one remembers for the rest of his life, as long as there is some part of the love for movies left in him. We said goodbye to each other that night and then we crawled back to our man-caves, each with his own thoughts. As I was crawling along the avenue I remember thinking about Anatolia, thinking that – if it comes out that good – people should unlearn some more. Nuri Bilge Ceylan did quite a job with that.
Directed by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Produced by: Zeynep Özbatur Atakan
Written by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ercan Kesal, Ebru Ceylan
Starring: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Ebru Ceylan
Cinematography: Gökhan Tiryaki
Editing by: Bora Gökşingöl, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Studio: Zeyno Film