‘Monkey’ business


So often, when a film is described as ‘deliberately paced,’ it’s can be read as being ‘slow.’ ‘In the Bedroom’ initially comes to mind off the top of my head.

And while the camera may stay statioary to soak in the scenery, the electrical undercurrent of ‘Three Monkeys’ (Uc Maymun in Turkish) is anything but lethargic.

Cinematographer Nuri Bilge Ceylan uses natural and man-made elements as supporting actors. A rolling storm cloud here, a thundering train there, all signify struggles the main characters face as they attempt to lie and cheat their way out of the dark corners in which they’ve found themselves.

A middle-aged politician (Ercan Kesal) drives down a desolate road, eyes heavy with sleep, when he is jolted awake by his car slamming into and killing a pedestrian.

In a panic, he bolts the scene and later persuades his longtime driver, Eyup (played by Yavuz Bingol), to take the fall and and serve the jail time in exchange for large chunks of change for him, Hacer his wife ( played by Hatice Aslan) and Ismael, his young son (played by Ahmet Rifts Sungar).

As often does happen with money, problems arise. Ismael is of limited motivation and feels that only if the money were spent on a new car, his dream career could be attained. Hacer, on the other hand, begins an affair with her hubby’s boss — yes, the man Eyuap’s serving time for — and is reluctant to let it go upon his prison release.

The film’s title refers to those little chimps that cover their eyes, ears and mouth in order to “see no evil…” etc. And that is exactly what the characters do, they shut down the darker parts and sort of wish their troubles away.

And this often justifies the lingering, physically inert stretches, hoping that those dark clouds will just roll over eventually and sunny skies will soon follow. But just as director Ceylan cuts away, so does the hope for a cheerful conclusion.

It’s not the prettiest portrait of human nature ( as evidenced by Eyup’s violent reaction to his wife’s affair, but indifference of his boss killing a man and covering it up), but may be more accurate than we’re comfortable with. If it’s pictures on the TV, we feel brief sadness before turning the channel; if it hits home, we’re pissed.

The performances are uniformly believable, with Aslan as the true standout. She’s the victim of a loveless marriage, and when her husband’s jailed for the better part of a year, her flirtation with freedom is palpable.

And though Three Monkeys dabbles with excellence throughout, it never fully acheives it. Resolutions come a tad too easy in a film as emotionally messy as this, and while the cinematography enhances, it is too often used as a narrative crutch.

Still, Three Monkeys offers further progression of a filmmaker who is not afraid of a few risks, and with each film, Ceylan has been building a solid resume (with 2002’s Distant and 2006’s Climates) that will most likely reap future rewards

~ by usesoapfilm on January 8, 2009.

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