Hollywood Hues
Heady drama

It would be a sin to miss Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylanís Three Monkeys,
writes Ervell E. Menezes

A politician kills a pedestrian while dozing at the wheel but doesnít want to own up to the crime as he is shortly running for elections. So he asks his driver to take the blame and serve a prison sentence. Now this is easier said than done and in Three Monkeys we see the intense turmoil the driverís family goes through because they want to invalidate the truth like the three monkeys who "see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil."

Eyup (Yavuz Bingol) is the driver, who because of his loyalty to the master takes upon this onerous task of complying with the boss, but how subservient can one be and where will this drama end? Hacer (Hatice Aslan) is the tormented wife whose life takes an absolute about-turn around because she faces the machinations of the ruthless boss Servet (Ercan Kesal) who extracts his pound of flesh Ismael (Ahmet Riat Sungur) the impetuous, adolescent son who has his own problems plus suspects his motherís fidelity.

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan zeroes in on the psyche of these three characters with the skill of a magician. Lyrically, with his picture-card images and pregnant pauses, that speak louder than words, Ceylan narrates this heady drama, moving from one to the other of these principal characters, with the wife Hacer taking centrestage as she is the most traumatised of the three.

Expressive in her varying moods as she goes through a whole gamut of emotions, Hatice Aslan gives and impeccable performance, followed closely by Yavus Bingol, Arcan Kasel, who is also the co-scriptwriter, along with director Ceylan and his wife Ebru. Not surprisingly, director Ceylan won the Best Director award at Cannes earlier this year in this soul-searching human drama that is as poetic as it is poignant.

Ceylan begins with a scene of the road at night where the crime is to be committed. Later, it cuts to the boss and his torment after the act. We, then, zoom in on the three members of Eyupís family and what a powerful denouement it is, red herrings et al. Cinematographer Gokhan Tiryakiís caressing visuals are like paintings as we go through a series of breath-taking shots. But we see the actual house in which the family lives shot from a plethora of angles and it is only in the final shot that one sees the larger picture ó a sumptuous, orgasmic experience.

This Turkish filmmaker living in Germany is already renowned for his art and one has to experience this staccato torment, the hell-on-earth this family goes through showing human nature at its most susceptible moments. Whether it is the dawn wailing of the mulla, or the dogs barking at night, whether it is the night shots of the city or the strong outdoors with the sea as backdrop, it is stuff that dreams are made of. The pace is halting, guardedly but the experience indelible. "What next" is the question running through the narrative and brings out an Alfred Hitchcock-like suspense. Where will this nightmare end, is the bottom line.

And as tensely as it is built up, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan seems to defuse it. Or does he? Hatice Aslan is absolutely brilliant as the distraught wife reminding one of Anouk Aimee in A Man and a Woman though the persona is quite different. Yavuz Bingol underplays his part well and comes across strongly in the last quarter while Ahjmet Riat Sungur and Ercan Kesal lend adequate support.

What gives this poetic wonder a further fillip is that Three Monkeys is shot in a bleached format, neither colour nor in black and white. But absolutely soothing. It would be a sin to miss it and thatís putting it mildly.