The bookies’ pick to win Cannes, a more than three-hour-long Turkish drama Winter Sleep by festival favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan, has drawn rave reviews after its red-carpet premiere.
Greeted with a lengthy standing ovation at its sole Cannes screening, the cast and crew basked in critical praise as they met the press.
The film stars Haluk Bilginer, known to international audiences from the long-running British soap opera EastEnders, as a wealthy retired actor living with his much younger wife (the stunning Melisa Sozen) and his recently divorced sister (popular comic actress Demet Akbag).
Based on three short stories by Anton Chekhov, their tense domestic triangle plays out in a quaint hotel serving hikers and motocross enthusiasts drawn in the summertime to the spectacular landscapes of Turkey’s Cappadocia region.
Their intricately pitched, often remarkably lengthy dialogues, written by Ceylan and his wife Ebru, dig deep and drew comparisons to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, a master of moral questioning and the personal drama writ large.
Trade magazine Variety swooned over the film’s “vibrantly conceived, fully fleshed-out human characters”.
British daily The Guardian called it a “stunning picture” while Deborah Young of the Hollywood Reporter said it “demands a commitment to attentive viewing that, despite the film’s sometimes terrible longueurs, pays off in the end”.
And a handful of betting websites had picked Winter Sleep even before its screening as the favourite to capture the Cannes Palme d’Or top prize on May 24.
And by Saturday it had rocketed to the top of the critics’ poll in French magazine Le Film Francais, and a close second place in Britain’s Screen behind Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner.