Awaking from a Winter Sleep with Nuri Bilge Ceylan


Is this movie, Winter Sleep, autobiographical? What was your inspiration?

Yes, there are autobiographical elements, but there are also elements that come mostly from my friends. And of course, from Chekhov’s stories, which are the starting point. This author was also present in my previous film. There are links to Chekhov in my other movies because he wrote many stories about various subjects, and I can see life in the same way he does.

Why did you choose a nice location? How do you normally work?

This is a real hotel, and actually, I didn’t want this place because it’s too beautiful for me, but I needed a hotel with tourists around, and that was the only place in winter time where you can find them. For me, the scenery should not be beautiful because it is better if you create a good image from a bad scenery. I think that the goodness of the image is not dependant on the beauty of the subject. The key point is the mind of the filmmaker because, if you put the camera in a golden place, the image may seem interesting, even if the place is not. 

This movie has lots of long dialogues. Do you normally work like that? Were there any actors complaining about it?

This time I wanted to make a movie like at the theatre, but for a foreign audience, it is difficult and tiring to watch because you have to read the subtitles. I think that, normally, audiences like dialogues. Some of the actors liked it, even if it was very long, while others had problems. I think that, basically in a case like that, you need good actors. The first editing was four and half hours because the script was too long, but at the end, I could make it more compact. 

How do you like theatre, and would you like to adapt a novel or a play?

I like theatre but not as much as literature, even if there are quotes from Molière and Othello. I think, then, I can’t adapt a text because I need to change a lot of that text. I believe that adaptation is somehow impossible because you need to have the freedom to do collages; filming is like making a collage. 

What role do soap operas have in this movie?

In Turkey, we sometimes use this formula of humiliating the others because we have a big and strong industry of soap operas. Characters have to stimulate sympathy with the public, be a little bit melodramatic and a bit heavy, which make it easier to watch. 

Do you think that the wealthiest society in Turkey is in a sort of winter sleep?

Of course. The intellectuals and especially the theatre actors are different because, all their lives, they’ve acted in Shakespeare plays. They live a very intellectual life in close circles with other actors. In all countries, there are such differences, and intellectuals are a bit isolated from the society. Maybe in Turkey this phenomenon is a little bit more present. 

What’s your main motivation?

What keeps me going is doing something better because, normally, I’m not really satisfied with what I do, so I always try to improve. Then I think that, as artists, we shouldn’t use good reviews to prove that our art is good.


Portrait by Stephanie Cornfield.