Three Monkeys — the famous three monkeys of not seeing, speaking or hearing– is a sorrowful, long-take, film of domestic life at the edge in modern Turkey.  Nuri Bilge Ceylan, one of Turkey’s premier film makers, is never noted for quick-cut, action films [see review of Distant, here]  but he outdoes himself here.  Static shots of a room with doors and hallway on the far side are held for 30 seconds or so.  A character walks in, lingers, walks out.  The shot is held.  Or, a head shot of a brooding, sick-at-heart man, lying on his side in bed. A strange snake-like thing appears over his shoulder: a child’s arm.  The shot is held. All is motionless except the slow blinking of eyes in pain.  Then the arm is pulled away. A ghostly figure recedes in the still frame.  30 seconds or so.

Contrast this to the serious emotions at play.  A wealthy, running-for-election man, Servet (Ercan Kesal),  hits a pedestrian on a dark rainy street.  He talks his employee, Eyüp (Yavuz Bingöl),  into admitting guilt, as the driver.  The sentence will be short, his salary will continue to go home and there will be a bonus at the end; Servet can continue running for office.  Clearly a stumble away from a economic fall,  Eyüp takes the rap.  His son İsmail (Ahmet RıfatŞungar),  a drifting college age boy, and his wife Hacer (Hatice Aslan)  are left at home in a patched together house with a distant view of the water;  both unhappy.  The boy convinces his mother that they should ask the boss for an advance on the pay-off.  He can get a car, and stay away from his thuggish friends.  The mother agrees and goes to ask.  Big mistake, as we all know when she walks into boss-man’s door.

When Eyüp gets out and his suspicions rise about the money — “Who went to get the money,” he grills his son, “you, or your mother?”– the tension is palpable.  A surprising bedroom scene, his large brown fingers caressing her nipple, teeters between reunion love-making and jealous violence.  Her face, unfriended by the lighting, is as drawn and harrowed a female face as you’ve likely seen in recent movie making.  All I should say more is that at  the end Eyüp asks a down-and-out friend if he’ll take the beef for the death of another man; the sentence will be short, it will be warmer in the prison than in the store-room he now sleeps in, there will be a bonus at the end.  Everything in between is the story.

Some of the shots are against wide expanses of sky filled with rain clouds.

Some are set up as still photos, lushly dark with a shimmer of natural light from a window.

For all the beauty of the film, and the doubling-back, ancient story of hierarchy, sex, loneliness, fidelity, betrayal, Ceylan’s very measured pace takes a special kind of viewer.  Let me say, don’t try to watch this late in the evening, stretched out on a couch.  You’ll miss important parts while your eyelids shift scenes as slowly as he does.  Alert, ready to follow his lead, it’s a fine, slow-dance of a movie. Certainly worth watching. Hold the popcorn.  Sip some moody gin.