wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
Minimalist with dialogues and music, yet loud on drama and tension. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys is a work of art, literally. Winner of Best Director at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and nominee for the Golden Palm, this Turkish film needs patience, curiosity and some maturity to sit through. I’d still say it’s a must watch for what the film turns out to be. A tip: Make sure you’re not stressed out or drowsy before the film begins.Read more
A viewer’s state of mind is of utmost importance while watching a film. Drowsiness, exhaustion and fidgety company, are three factors that strongly influence opinion about a film. Their absence can make you feel that Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys is a masterpiece, and their abundance can put you to sleep.
Indeed, Three Monkeys qualifies as the film institute specimen. Watch it on fast forward (not even 2x, try 4x) and you’ll still know exactly what’s happening. But if you really want to feel the film, and be part of the nervous tension flowing between the characters, you’ve got to sit through. I did - the first time I saw it on the big screen - and I was almost in a trance, absorbed deeply into the proceedings, however slow one might call them. The director, an accomplished still photographer himself, has such a fantastic command over the visuals that despite few dialogues, the emotions are loud and clear.
The plot is simple - an aspiring politician Servet (Ercan Kesal) accidentally hits a pedestrian while driving along the highway on a rainy night. To shield his future in politics, he asks his employee Eyup (Yavuz Bingol) to take the blame and go to prison for six months. In return he promises to pay him a handsome compensation on return, in addition to his monthly salary to Eyup’s family - Hacer (Hatice Aslan), wife, and son Ismail (Rifat Sungar).
Servet, however, fancies Hacer and when she approaches him for the full compensation and it triggers an affair that soon snowballs into a web of lies between each of characters. It is from here on that each of them becomes one of the three monkeys, who see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. The last 30 minutes of the film are perhaps the least verbose, but despite being so, Ceylan’s direction has enough drama to convey each character’s state of denial, conflict, jealousy and revenge.
The film also makes some points to ponder over. It becomes clear that evil is never washed out completely - it can only be passed on. The miseries of one person, go on to the become the miseries of another. Money, lust and innocence are just pawns in the process.
Ceylan makes use of static shots and long, disturbing silences which create a nervous tension flowing throughout the film. Emotions are rarely explicitly stated in the film, they’re left to the viewer’s interpretation.
Although there’s almost no background music in the film, the use of a simple ringtone on Hacer’s phone - a Turkish song about love, loss and hurt - is used very cleverly to establish emotions. The cinematography is stunning - shot in HD, each frame seems like a work of art. There is a meticulous amount of detailing that goes in showing the effects of the Turkish summer on each character - perspiration, sweat and secrets become conniving bedfellows in the film. And the arrival of the monsoon, marks the passing away of evil.
Three Monkeys is art-house cinema at its best. Watch it with some patience and focus. You won’t be disappointed. It tells a good story with a lot of substance. And by being minimalist with dialogues, it proves successfully that silence can be louder than words.
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