Three Monkeys (Unrated) ****

Things aren't working out as planned for Hatice Aslan and Yavuz Bingol in Three Monkeys. ZEITGEIST FILMS

By Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the best director prize at Cannes last year for this tense, poetic neonoir.

A politician kills a pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident. He bribes his chauffeur to take the rap, and the man goes to prison for a year. The driver hopes this pact with the devil will benefit his overworked wife and his teenage son, who is running with a rough crowd.

Instead, he has placed a noose of guilt around all their necks. He returns to a family with guilty secrets piled high in his absence.

Stunningly shot on the outskirts of Istanbul — Ceylan is an ex-photographer — Three Monkeys is a brooding examination of grief and repression. It concerns not lurid crimes — acts of violence occur off-camera — but the moral and emotional consequences of betrayal.

A single lie sets catastrophe in motion. The family members play deaf, dumb and blind to their own hypocrisy until they stand at the edge of the abyss. Dishonesty and secrecy scatter mustard seeds of bad faith everywhere, and soon the family is in free fall.

Dialogue is sparse; somber, eloquent faces framed against enormous black clouds articulate what we need to know about the characters’ despair. The framing suffuses every scene with anticipation. The ominous, desaturated color scheme traps the players in airless confinement even when they are outdoors.

The pace is deliberate, sometimes slow, but the whirlpool pull of this tragic psychological thriller is irresistible.

Cast: Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan, Rifat Sungar.

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Screenwriters: Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ercan Kesal.

Producer: Zeynep Ozbater.

Running time: 109 minutes. In Turkish with English subtitles. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Cosford.


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