Winter Sleep

Set in a mountainous Turkish town, ‘’Winter Sleep’’ is a slow-paced drama that examines the significant and typical divide between the rich and the poor of the country.

At the heart of the story, we have Aydin, a former actor and hotel owner who writes columns for a local daily, facing multiple crisis of the heart with his young wife Nihal, recently divorced sister Necla and the odd window-smashing debt-ridden tenant.

This 195-minute-long film does not boast of larger-than-life sets, locations (although it does have more than a few splendid landscape shots), or ensemble cast, yet what works in its favour is the honest and brutal characterization of the personages. The dialogue writing is taut as not a single line spoken feels like it is filler or redundant. The length of the film does not feel like an obstruction as the layers of characters begin to unfurl slowly through a series of conversations, starting from one between an employer and his employee and ending with one of a husband and wife.

The film mainly delves into the aspects of moral responsibility, the existence of evil, and the divide between the poor and the rich. In the very first scene itself, we can see Aydin sitting in the car, turning his nose at the desperation and indignity of poverty around him, listening to the heated conversation between Ismail and Hidayet, an unemployed tenant. He further goes on to write columns on virtue-signalling topics such as “How an imam should be a proper example to his community” despite being irreligious himself. He patronises people, presenting his falsely modest, polite smile as he lets them know exactly how he knows better. His divorced sister, Necla, exists as a ghost of the past- thinking back to her married life, nostalgic despite the ‘’evil’’ done to her by her alcoholic ex. His young wife, Nihal, depressed and bored by the endless drudgery of their passive life, raises money of the nearby school’s repairs to cope with the meaninglessness of her life.

 “If all you thinkers thought about solving big problems, all this trivia you fuss about would solve itself in the process”, spoken by Necla during a heated argument with Aydin, correctly sums up the mentality of not only Aydin but also a massive pool of wealthy people who have the audacity to criticize, crib and judge about the grim reality, sitting in their cosy rooms, but wouldn’t do even a little bit to ease of the pain of the marginalized communities.

“You’re an unbearable man,” Nihal tells him, sitting tearfully by the fire. “Selfish, spiteful and cynical.” Aydin chuckled after hearing this which further shows his casual attitude towards the anguish of his wife, and to the charitable work she does.

Since times immemorial we have been hearing these words- Pray what you preach. These words hold great significance when we talk of Aydin. Towards the end of the film, we see Levent, who Aydin despises, accusing him of not providing relief to the people affected due to the earthquake six years ago. “There is no counting of the donations I’ve made over the years” was his vague reply, despite having never contributed to his wife’s charity.

Mexican director Arturo Ripstein said “North American cinema is the only true weapon of mass destruction. It has achieved to convince the audience not only that it’s the best possible cinema, but that it is the only.’’ Winter Sleep is just another reason for people all over the globe to turn their heads towards Middle-Eastern cinema and start exploring their films in much greater depth.

  • Kushagra Chaudhary (Statistics, 3rd Year)

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