Both Aydin and the establishment in which he resides are remote and apparently hewn from the surrounding landscape itself. His hunched shoulders and thick coat may be protection from the gathering cold outside, but it is clear that relationships with his young wife, Nihal (Melisa Sözen) and his divorced sister, Necla (Demet Akbag) are scarcely warmer. After the two women retreat from a bitter verbal sortie with one another, Necla engages in a fascinating and ultimately contemptuous duel with Aydin that illustrates them both to be equally as petulant and pig-headed as one another. An arrogant, self-aggrandising former actor, Aydin demands (rather than commands) respect and contrition whilst simultaneously despising those that are willing to give them. Ceylan isn't interested in merely vilifying one player in this painful game - where passive aggression reigns supreme - and even with a tear running down her angelic cheek, Nihal's own weaknesses are laid bare. Sözen is exquisite in the face of the erosive condescension of her husband; his pointed criticism of her bookkeeping and charity work are as genuinely unpleasant as they are cringe-worthy. Later, in a tension-filled interaction with a pair of brothers who rent their three room home from Aydin, she is appalled by a hostile and fiery reflection of her own pride.
Gökhan Tiryaki's photography is a joy to behold, colouring the desolate locale in suitably wintery hues, even in scenes that unfurl in rooms lit by flickering firelight. Wide shots of figures silhouetted against their surroundings emphasise a sense of loneliness, both emotional and physical, and the visuals complement the intimate tragedy painted upon Ceylan's expansive canvas. Staged in a purposely theatrical manner – Aydin's pompous, and unwritten, magnum opus is a history of Turkish theatre - Winter Sleep is a quiet masterpiece that uncovers the hypocrisy of its players and is never anything less than mesmerising.