Nuri Bilge Ceylan delights in making films about nothing, the kind of films I rail against, and so I don’t know why I keep watching his movies (short answer: they keep showing up on lists.) But compared to “Climates” and the terrible “Uzak,” his latest is simply loaded with plot.
Two cars full of men traverse the (admittedly beautiful) rugged hillside as the sun sets. They are looking for a body; in one of the cars is the murderer, but he can remember dumping the body, but he can’t remember exactly where. There was a fountain, and a tree…
It’s not the greatest plot in the world, but it’s enough to keep the film moving without getting in the way of the characters and their interactions. There’s the detective, who just wants to get this thing over with, and a philosophical but weary doctor, assigned to the autopsy. And the prosecutor, who will be in charge of the case once the body’s found. And of course, the two criminals, and some guys with shovels. The best moments of the film are the conversations between them. One tells a story about a woman who declares that she will die on a certain day, and the proceeds to do so. This keeps coming back, as the men reflect on their own mortality, and the inevitability of death, even as they search for a dead man and try to hold another man responsible for it.
A lot of “Anatolia” is about the drudgery of police work — a topic that seems to be really fascinating to European filmmakers lately. I understand the impulse to make an anti-Die Hard, showing that most cops don’t engage in gunfights and car chases every day. But after “Le Petit Lieutenant,” “Police, Adjective,” and “Polisse,” this, too, has been pretty played out. “Once Upon A Time in Anatolia” is a beautifully shot film with some interesting scenes, and it’s a bit better than a lot of other films mostly about nothing. In my book, though, it’s hardly great cinema.
Verdict: Not Recommended unless you’re in a pensive mood, and like thinking about death, dying, and bureaucracy.