The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan is glad to be back in Cannes, where he has a happy history. He won the Grand Jury Prize in 2002 for Distant and in again 2011 for Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and a Best Director Award in 2008 for Three Monkeys.
Ceylan admitted he was surprised his new film Winter Sleep received a better response than he expected because of its challenging length of 196 mins. “I was a bit suspicious about how they will react, they are merciless sometimes,” he said of the critics in Cannes.
He says the starting points for Winter Sleep were several short stories by the Anton Chekhov but many things have been changed and added. However, the director also said he has always been inspired by the Russian writer in his career “in my last movie also there was a lot from Chekhov too…I like to make ambiguous movies about life… So, Chekhov is just like that. Maybe he taught me how to get life, I don’t know”.
In the main character of the film, Aydin, there is something akin to the director himself, but mostly inspired by his friends and acquaintances. “He’s a typical Turkish intellectual but I’m not a typical Turkish intellectual,” the director says. He knows this character very well as well as some actors who run hotels in Anatolia after having retired from acting and he chose this particular character to be an actor because the dialogues were somewhat literary.
At first, he thought the setting of Cappadocia was too beautiful for this film but “I had to go there because there was no hotel and no tourist place somewhere else where I could find an isolated hotel. I had to select this place,” he said and added Pasolini made his Medea there.
With the centenary of Turkish cinema being celebrated in Cannes this year, he pointed out that in the ’80s, the Turkish film industry was very strong in terms of commercial movies but that there were several good directors as well. For instance, in 1982, Șerif Gören and Yılmaz Güney competed for the Palme d’Or here with their film Yol “but after that, the television came to Turkey and at the beginning of the 90s the industry was very bad”.
In his opinion, the situation now for Turkish cinema is “not bad, there is a big diversity of filmmakers making different kinds of movies and very good young directors”. He is also very optimistic about the next generation of filmmakers in Turkey. He went on to add that with the ever so popular Turkish soap operas on the rise, it actually helps the cinema world by supporting a large number of actors. “When they act in the cinema they don’t want a lot of money because they earn it in the soap operas,” he noted.
The director shared that with Winter Sleep he wanted more dialogue, to try his abilities in that field and explained that times are changing in Turkey “when I started cinema, there was no natural dialogue so my aim was to create very natural dialogues but now even in the television advertisements the dialogues are quite natural, they use amateurs”.
He prefers writers like Dostoyevsky and a special language for his films “so I had more courage to use more literary dialogues despite it being risky and I wondered if it worked or not.”
Ceylan admitted he is not really very interested in offers outside Turkey. And, regarding his future projects, he does not know what is next. It will take him a few months after Cannes to think of a new project although he said that one film always leads to another in his head “you always think but after finishing the film it’s better because thinking about a film changes you, you don’t know your new state”, the director added.