If you’re looking for an adultery- and revenge-fueled family melodrama so subdued that it keeps a hit-and-run fatality, cuckoldry, and murder entirely off screen, Three Monkeys is your movie and Nuri Bilge Ceylan your not-so-genre-inclined auteur. The title’s trio of “see no evil” primates are represented by the duplicitous members of a working-class Turkish family, led by Dad (Yavuz Bingol), driver to a scummy politician (Ercan Kesal), who serves a nine-month prison sentence in place of his scandal-fearing employer after the pol commits vehicular manslaughter and makes a cash offer for the chauffeur to take the rap. Mom (Hatice Aslan, crying and suffering as Ceylan women are prone to) succumbs to the well-hidden charms of the official while her husband is incarcerated, in what initially seems to be blackmail but becomes an inscrutable affair. The couple’s layabout, college exam-failing son (Rifat Sungar) comes home bloody from violent adventures, vomits at inopportune moments, and seems poised to act when his peek through a keyhole uncovers his mother’s betrayal. All this and a wandering child-specter too. Ceylan retains his trademark elegant compositions from Distant and Climates; the family’s cramped and desaturated apartment happens to overlook a seaside rail route, which also makes for plenty of ambient train, wind, and water sounds under the images. But his wide-shot, drama-averse style is a weak match for the lurid, Old Testament aspects of the scenario; the mother’s confrontation with her angry lover on a windswept hill is not only overwhelmed by the roiling skies and landscape, but by the unfathomable pairing of the characters. Satisfying as the spatial dynamics of the framing is, the dopey geometry of Three Monkeys‘s final circular plot twist makes the widescreen HD visuals seem like gift-wrap on an antique can of rubber snakes.
- Zeitgeist Films
- 109 min
- Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Ercan Kesal
- Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan, Rifat Sungar, Ercan Kesal, Cafer Köse, Gürkan Aydin
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