Cannes 2014: ‘Winter Sleep’ preview

Unquestionably one of the most eagerly awaited films set to screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Winter Sleep (2014) is also one of those most shrouded in mystery. Very little is known about the new offering from acclaimed Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak, Three Monkeys, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), who makes his return to the Croissette after a two-year absence. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia deservedly scooped the Grand Jury Prize when it premièred at Cannes in competition back in 2011, and expectations are high that Ceylan’s latest can do one better and make a bid for the Palme d’Or itself. A French subtitled trailer for the film (embedded at the bottom of this post) shows off the visual mastery for which the director is known, each shot crafted like a lesson in poised composition.

Co-written with wife Ebru Ceylan and, like Nuri Bilge’s previous film, set in Anatolia and shot in the Cappadocia region during the coldest months, Winter Sleep promises to be an intense drama with an epic scope, clocking in at over three hours in length (196 minutes for those seemingly intent on scrutinising). Plot details are tantalisingly vague, but the French trailer does offer up a number of tasty morsels. A child is seen throwing a rock at a car, horses run across the Anatolian plains and a rifle is fired (in anger?). Of course, it would be foolish to pull too much meaning from these fleeting images except for recognition of the power of Ceylan’s visuals themselves. Full use is once again made of the other-worldly landscapes of his native Turkey, as well as the region’s tumultuous elements – rain, sleet and snow.

Riding into Cannes on a wave of critical anticipation (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia rightly garnered plaudits the world over, in addition to well-founded comparisons with the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky amongst other such literary luminaries), many have placed Winter Sleep right at the very zenith of their ‘must-see’ lists for the festival’s 67th incarnation. Ceylan and his cast, meanwhile – which includes Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sözen and Demet Akbag – have understandably been playing their cards close to their chest, and we can only guess, for the time being at least, what may lie in store come the film’s world premiere screening in the south of France next week.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.

John Bleasdale