In a word – Beautiful. The 2.35:1 1080p image is nothing short of breathtaking. The cinematography plays an incredibly important part in this, with regular collaborator Gökhan Tiryaki stepping up for Ceylan once again. Strike me down for using such a turn of phrase but it's a visual Tour de Force.
From lighting to composition and framing, it's all fluid and deliberate. Of course with such incredibly grogeous scenery, you could argue that the hard work was shouldered by Mother Nature, but how Ceylan points the camera at it is a notable achievement nonetheless. We get to soak all that beauty up; aren't we the lucky ones indeed. Though I found it tough to get along with narratively, I had no such problems with the video presentation.
The first thing that strikes you with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is the epic sense of scale, Ceylan really exploiting his Native land's stunning countryside. Predominantly shot in darkness, the colours that we get lean heavily towards the orange and yellow end of the spectrum, in part due to the yellow torch and headlamp lit night-time. It's quite lovely to soak up , but given the warm colours that the grading during nightime scenes boasts, it still manages to feel cold. The colours don't add any warmth at all which I found interesting.
Contrary to the night time scenes, the scenes shot in daylight look no less beautiful, but also extremely natural. Lighting here is spot on, and whilst not needing to push towards the blue end of the colour spectrum, still imparts a freshness and a slight chill to the picture. Skin tones are natural and have decent texture, though on occasion they can seem slightly washed out. I put this down to the contrast between night and day scenes, with night scenes being rich and deep with blacks and yellow headlamps and such, whilst daylight is somewhat harsh and cold and feels mildly desaturated. What daylight we do see, however, is rendered beautifully – highlighting the cinematography once again.
Blacks are rich and deep, and have an amazing sense of effortlessness to them. With a lot of the movie flooded in darkness there is the worry that noise could creep in, or that edge enhancement can cause some issues with the darkly lit night time scenes, but thankfully nothing untoward to report. There's a reasonable amount of grain to the picture which brings weightiness to the image and slightly takes the sheen off by adding a film-like roughness to the otherwise immaculate video presentation. Wholly welcome from me, though some to revolt at the sight of grain added to picture.
The only qualm I'd have about the picture is that at times it can be ever so slightly on the soft side. Perhaps nothing more than a touch of sharpness required in post, but nothing major. Lastly, the subtitles are set at quite an unusual sposition, within the frame, but ocassionally kerning is a little weird, and drop letters such as "y" and "j" bleed out of the frame and into the borders. Strange really, but nothing to be too up in arms about.
All in all, it's every bit as rich and beautifully shot as No Country for Old Men. High quality stuff that I'm sure few will be disappointed with. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that watching Once Upon a Time in Anatolia somehow reminded me of the love I once professed for my projector so openly, encouraging me to once more proclaim it from the rooftops. (NB: No climbing of rooftops was necessary for the purposes of this review)
The simplest way to describe the audio track is – Subtle. With two tracks featuring, both in Turkish. One DTS 5.1 Master Audio track, which I'll look at first.
Nothing is overused, nothing goes to waste. It's natural once again, and though it's never going to be a benchmark, go-to-disc to show off your system, it's certainly one that you'll be very pleased with nonetheless.
There's a lot of wind and rustling noise throughout the movie and this is spread deftly across the entire surround array. It does it's job of placing you in the middle of the deserted and dusty Turkish countryside. Reverbs are used to great effect for adding further space to the surround field with echoing dogs barking and the crunching tyres over the stoney tracks, trundling along in the wilderness.
Dialogue is Turkish and is crystal clear. Set recording puts the foley of character movement and dialogue on the same audio track which can be risky as it can often lead to issues with muffling dialogue and such, but nothing of the sort here. Clothing movement is as clear and clean as the words spoken. English subtitles are clear and easy to read. You won't be complaining, but I doubt you'll be raving about this audio presentation. It's solid.
Secondly, there is a PCM 2.0 audio track. Obviously it's clean as a whistle as you'd expect, but it doesn't bring much more to the table than the lossless DTS track. In fact, it's every bit as clear whilst being slightly underwhelming. Of course, those without a surround system will be pleased that they won't have to suffer with a downmix, and can rest assured that the PCM audio track is about as good as you can get for a stereo track. Decent.
A little sparse really considering the breadth of scale the movie offers, but with a feature length documentary on the filming of the movie, there's just about enough to sink your teeth into.
It's the trailer for the movie. No surprises here. Click the images link above to watch the same trailer right here at AV Forums.
Making of Documentary-
For the first minute of this feature length making of documentary you'll probably be wondering whether your audio is borked. It isn't, it just starts out, somewhat inexplicably, with some office scenes where people are talking but all you can hear is some nice soft music. Odd choice. Once the documentary starts though, it features a lot of on set interviews and shooting footage. Ceylan can be seen coaching the actors and getting involved. It looks pretty cold too. 92 minutes
Interview with Nuri Bilge Ceylan -
A 23 minute interview with the Director. All shot in 4:3, and I have to say, the audio is dire. Loud, distorted, broadcast written all over it. It's difficult to watch and to listen to since the interviewers microphone is compressed to hell. When Ceylan speaks though, it's a little softer and easier to listen to. It's a very interesting interview actually that adds insight into Ceylan's thinking behind the cinematography and production. If you're going to watch this, turn the volume down or you may wake the neighbours.
I was looking forward to Once Upon a Time in Anatolia immensely, and I have to hold my hands up and say that, contrary to what most film critics will tell you, I just don't get the fuss. It's undoubtedly beautiful. It's categorically a work of art. It's sadly frightfully boring. Much in the same way that I found Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to be one long series of scenes in which Gary Oldman walks into rooms and takes his gloves off really slowly, I couldn't get along with it. Yes, I know, I'm setting myself up for a beating here, but it's one I'll accept. Perhaps I am being narrow minded, or maybe I missed something, but I prefer my movies to reward me for my effort, and believe me, there was no lack of effort with this movie, (or Tinker Tailor for that matter) but I just found myself wanting by the end of it. I just do not get what all the fuss is about.
Having said that, if it's Arthouse Cinema that floats your boat, you are absolutely in the right place with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, and Blu-ray is the only way to watch it. Rich and vibrant visuals and a solid audio track will no doubt keep you satisfied. I just can't promise that the rest of the family will agree.
A beautiful and rich, but slightly dull movie gets an average score from me. Now let the berating commence.
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