Saturday, December 12, 2009
3 Monkeys (2008)
Sometimes, we must take a step back in order to move forward. "3 Monkeys" by Nuri Bilge Ceylan feels like such an attempt, as the talented director backs away from his usual stark, improvised minimalism, in favor of a plot-driven, tightly scripted drama. When a chauffer (Yavuz Bingol) agrees to take the fall for a hit-and-run fatality caused by a corrupt politician (Ercan Kesel), a chain reaction slowly ensues of unforeseen and harrowing events.
The script is so Shakespearean tragedy in nature that very little about the story can be disclosed, but suffice to say that character flaws abound, and incrimination and remorse are prime narrative movers. The film also features elements of mysticism - never fully explained- and some surprising and startling domestic violence that will be disturbing to some viewers, particularly fans of Ceylan's more sedate earlier films.
But there are many classic, and welcome, Ceylan touches as well: the Bergman-esque pacing and dramatic close-ups, the obsession with weather, and the gorgeously simple imagery. Ceylan has always been primarily a still photographer who just happens to make extraordinary movies, and here he takes his gift for image-making to a new level. With the aid of cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki (Ceylan shot his previous films himself), there are images of skies and clouds that rival the best of Ansel Adams, and the interior scenes glow with an unusual green and gold patina.
Still, this film has neither the compelling, meditative naturalism of "Climates" nor the darkly comic styling of "Distant", and those attributes were sorely missed. Yet it is a testament to Ceylan's talent that this, his least satisfying film so far, still easily rates 4 stars.
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