Once Upon A Time in Anatolia

As this movie starts, a small team of police officers (as well as a prosecutor and a doctor) are driving through the night with a criminal to try to find the body that the criminal buried in a field. The problem is that he was drunk when he did it and all the fields look the same so every field they stop to examine is not the right field. Or maybe he’s just lying to them and leading them on a wild goose chase because he doesn’t want to give up the body. At one point you see the head police man – the one who got the confession out of the killer – hitting the killer over and over again you start to wonder if the reason why he can’t find the body is because he had nothing to do with the killing but was beaten into a false confession.

The futility of the search leads to a long dark night of the soul for many of the men in the car. The cinematography is gorgeous and haunting, and it makes it look like these men are driving through the Elysian fields – wherever the car lights hit the sun-baked fields it’s golden and warm, but just beyond the reach of their lights is black and foreboding, suggesting a limited radius of hope swallowed up by an endless void. The pace grows more meditative as the night wears on and as each man grows more tired. The conversation between the prosecutor and the doctor grows more intimate the longer they spend waiting on the sidelines. Since I didn’t know much about the movie before I watched it, I didn’t know if this was going to be an existential cop movie where the hunt for this body was going to be a metaphor for the various things we might hunt for in life; it had the potential to be a forensic-minded Waiting for Godot, which would have been very interesting.

But halfway through the movie the sun rises and the tone changes appropriately. Concerns become more literal and the cinematography becomes less ethereal. It pays off the questions of the first half while still managing to be a bit mysterious, but once it gets grounded in the everyday world it loses a lot of it’s suggestive power. Which is a shame; if the beginning hour had been much shorter I would have been less upset by the semi-abrupt shift in tone. Alternatively,  if the second half had been equally as ambiguous as the first I might have been as engaged at the end as I was at the middle. As it is, this felt like a film with a lot of great potential which didn’t quite stick the landing.

Winner: Push

Once Upon a time in Anatolia on IMDB