Its extraordinary locational cinematography occasionally threatens to overwhelm the narrative, but its elliptical approach reveals more depth than it appears to have.
Dir. Emin Alper
2019 | Turkey | Drama | 108 mins | 1.85:1 | Turkish
Not rated (likely to be NC16 for a sexual scene and coarse language)
Cast: Cemre Ebuzziya, Ece Yüksel, Helin Kandemir
Plot: Three sisters were sent to town as ‘besleme’ (foster child and maid). Since they fail their foster parents for different reasons, they are sent back to their father’s house in their poor village.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlin)
International Sales: The Match Factory
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
(Reviewed on screener)
If you like the films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, then A Tale of Three Sisters ought to be in your radar. Boasting some of the most extraordinary locational cinematography of any 2019 picture, this new work by the emerging writer-director Emin Alper draws similarities with Ceylan’s visual style, particularly that of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) and Winter Sleep (2014).
But unlike those epics, A Tale of Three Sisters is pretty short, though that does not suggest that it is tight and concise. The filmmaking style is elliptical, giving us a sense of mystery, yet revealing more depth than it appears to have.
In other words, the film feels more than the sum of its parts, and that includes the three eponymous sisters, two of whom are driven back to their home village after some time working in the city as caretakers for well-to-do families.
The eldest sister is stuck with a baby and an illiterate shepherd husband who is frustrated by their stagnant existence in the village. As everyone tries to plot ways that could get them out, they also have to contend with their ageing father’s whims and contempt.
The leading cast playing the three women in question give affecting performances, but what’s more intriguing is how Alper sets up his story against the harsh if beautiful landscape, accompanied by folksy-style instrumental music that imbues the film with a serious yet dreamlike tone.