Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Release date: 13 February
Nuri Bilge Ceylan's previous film, Climates, confirmed him as Turkey's premier internationally acclaimed art director. The stylish and bitter Three Monkeys follows up his previous themes, using its thriller plot to concentrate on lives where no one can relate to each other and no one can get away from each other.
A man is killed in a hit and run accident committed by Servet, a politician. So as not to hinder his run in the forthcoming elections, Servet pays off his driver, Eyüp, to take the rap and serve his prison term. He loses the election anyway, the money fails to provide opportunities for Eyüp's wife and son, and Eyüp's return from prison worsens the family situation, leading ultimately to murder.
The film has a strong undertow of political criticism. Servet is played excellently by Ercan Kesal, whose insincerity is a coherent aspect of the character's self-serving amorality. That his driver will accept money to go to jail on his boss's behalf is a symptom of the inequality of life in the hopeless urban sprawl. The television announcement of the "forgone conclusion" of the victory of Erdogan's Islamic AKP party is listened to by Eyüp's wife from a comatose position on the sofa - her deathlike stupor roused only when her attention turns to the spots of blood that her son, Ismail, has trailed across the floor.
This general sense of listlessness spreads out across the film. Long close-ups linger on silent faces and a still, distant camera records the fairly meaningless conversations. Within this minimalism the film is kept alive by a strong sense of style which strengthens the thread of suspense and even bleak humour. Arbitrarily lingering on details like the whirring blades of a fan gives the drab ordinariness of the world an abstract mystery.
The three monkeys of the title refer to hearing, seeing, and speaking no evil - although this doesn't stop plenty of evil being done by characters who gradually lose the sympathy of both one another and the audience. Three Monkeys is built around the lack of sincere communication, on how the blocks on fulfilment find expression instead in mutual violent anger.
The resulting film is exciting, imaginative and emotional.