The best thing about the Cannes Film Festival is the polarizing, far-out films it programs; the kind of stuff that gets people tossing around words like “Lynch-esque,” “Cronenbergian,” “Kubrickian,” or “Giger-esque” in lieu of finding actual ways of describing a film. So far, three films have split critics like Moses did the Red Sea: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars, and Ryan Gosling’s incredibly hyped debut Lost River, previously called How to Catch a Monster.
Ceylan and Cronenberg are auteurs, and each film is threaded with the singular stylistic ticks that comprise their individual vision. (Gosling may aspire to be an auteur — we’ll see.) Ceylan, an avant-garde aesthete with tremendous ambition, always asks a lot of his viewers. Winter Sleep is over three hours long, with most reviews acknowledging that the climax occurs somewhere closer to hour two, with an hour of unsettling quietude for the final hour.
Ceylan is a visual master, using imagery to tell a story and relay metaphors. Winter Sleep keeps up this tradition, according to Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “Ceylan’s typically beautiful imagery shifts between warm, candlelit interiors, the deep blue hues of the mountainside, and the frosty wonderland promised by the title. Bathed in an atmosphere that encourages introspection, its contemplative tone always has a sense of purpose.”
The plot of the film is only sketchily outlined in most reviews, as Ceylan is more interested in characters and mood. The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks says that, “[Haluk] Bilginer gives a magnificent performance as the man at [the film’s] center, presiding over a mountain village in rural Turkey where the homes are indeed built into the rocks, like fantastical ant hives, abuzz with tension. Aydin owns a cosy hotel where he lives with his family, tending to the backpackers and cyclists who flit in and out of the lobby in a bid to avoid his chatter.”