Three Monkeys is the dark tale of a family drawn into the expedient world of a politician, who persuades Eyup, his driver, to take the blame for a fatal car accident and go prison in his place. When the driver’s wife, now alone with a dependent son, asks for an advance on the agreed payment, an affair develops between her and the politician, with repercussions when Eyup is released. “The film has extraordinary beauty. Indeed, the visuals by cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki are so awesome that the characters almost seem belittled, which may be Ceylan’s purpose” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times. (Cert 15)
Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan 109mins Turkey 2008
Thursday, 10 December 2009
THREE MONKEYS (Üç maymun)
Turkey 2008 105 minutes Cert. 15
You’re tired and driving at night along an unlit country road when a driver’s nightmare occurs: you run someone over. Soon after, a car pauses and drives on to inform the police. What to do? If you are the politician in Three Monkeys, Servet (Ercan Kesal), during an election campaign you’ll drive to town and ask your chauffeur Eyüp (Yavuz Bingol) to own up to the hit-and-run. He’ll receive a lump sum on release from prison and the politician will pay his wages while he’s ‘inside’. The loyal driver agrees and thereby draws his whole family into a film noir of deceit, sexual intrigue, jealousy and crime.
The family comprise a moody student son, Ismail, and Eyüp’s wife Hacer (Hatice Aslan), who works in catering. Her concern for her son, and the company he keeps, prompts her to approach Servet for early access to the lump sum. Slim and attractive, she receives advances not only in cash from her husband’s employer and becomes the film’s femme fatale.
We showed Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2002 film Uzak in our 2005-06 season. Members were appreciative of the camera work and acting but, in general, found it slow. With its death and deceit, crime and infidelity, there is more drama in tonight’s film but the family’s downward spiral is still drawn with the director’s characteristic lingering care and patience. There are many details and minor events to notice in every scene, some of which are just naturalistic observation while others turn out to be keys to the portals of plot development.
Three Monkeys is the third of Ceylan’s films to receive international acclaim. After Uzak, he directed himself and his actress and writer wife, Ebru Ceylan, in Climates (Ikimler), which explores marital break-up.
The film is shot as a noir, with plentiful use of shadow and washed out colour. The director’s wife co-wrote the screenplay and provided the art direction, while the cinematography was provided by Gökhan Tiryaki who did the same for Climates.
Yavuz Bingol is well known in Turkey as a folk singer and film and TV actor. Ercan Kesal, who plays the politician Servet, is also one of the film’s co-writers. The film won the Best Director prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Eyüp – Yavuz Bingol
Hacer – Hatice Aslan
Ismail – Rifat Sungar
Servet – Ercan Kesal
Bayram – Cafer Köse
The Child – Gürkan Aydin
Director – Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Screenplay – Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ercan Kesal
Cinematography – Gökhan Tiryaki
Art Direction – Ebru Ceylan
Producer – Zeynep Özbatur
“I’ll leave you to decide whether Three Monkeys, by Turkish director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, is a thriller or an art film disguised as one.” Jonathan Romney, The Independent on Sunday
“A grim, slow-burning exploration of guilt, grief and murder that keeps the audience at arm’s length through its cold, intermittently misanthropic, vision of humanity but which is filled with ravishing images and a powerfully brooding atmosphere.” Jamie McLeish, www.channel4.com
“Amazing – so silent, so eloquently silent. Absolutely gripping and claustrophobic – characters brilliantly realised. Great!”
“Sublime use of landscape. The stillness of the film contrasted with the turmoil of the characters – but oh, so grim!”
“The long silences were very effective in encouraging one to think about what the characters [themselves] were thinking and to consider how things would turn out. I thought maybe Eyup would turn himself in again for Servet’s murder, instead of recruiting the peripheral Bayram.”
“Very ‘noir’ [but] I’ve no intention of watching this again anytime soon. Interesting filming, though.”
“B for bleak – not what I would call a Turkish delight!”
“Well, what family doesn’t have it’s ups and downs?”
“More communication with each other would have been a good idea – or else a long holiday far away from each other! I thought the colours were fantastic, though.”
“The film and the characters suffered from an inability to communicate!”
“Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil”
“Too slow” [x 2]
“Looked great and was believable but I could not bring myself to care about any of the characters or what happened to them.”
“Great scenes and camera work but [it] felt so slow [that] I just could not sympathise with the characters.”
“Not much heroism here!”
“Without the noirish cinematography, this would have been an unremarkably bland and boring drama.”
“Beautiful photography but too slow for 2008 and too obscure for me any year!”
“Redeemed by the photography”
“Not so much a film noir, more a murky grey colour. Good atmosphere but painfully slow.”
“Not thrilling enough – not arty enough – not involving enough – not clever enough – not interesting enough.”
“A tedious film about sleazy characters – not a [single] virtue among them. I hated it!”
“What was the other film like this that lost out in the Committee’s selection process?” [It was Night of the Sunflowers.]