Three Monkeys an Exemplary, Deadening Exercise in Malaise


You can imagine frame grabs from Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s art noir Three Monkeys popping up in a Bordwellian film-studies textbook (or blog post). Observe the jack-in-the-box close-up (against deep-background action) for a politician hiding after a hit-and-run; notice how his fall guy’s family apartment is shot from unsettling heights and at angles slightly askew to the walls; soak up the digitally manipulated jaundiced palette, like watching an entire movie through the shades that eye doctors give out. The Turkish director’s shifting story of guilt—the politico’s flunky comes back from serving time and confronts his wife and son over infidelities—does not lack for carefully engineered technique, which is as stringently orchestrated as in past acclaimed films Distant and Climates. But Ceylan is essentially talking past his characters, whose thoughts are treated as secondary to DP Gökhan Tiryaki capturing their faces with the right hope-curdling hue. The heavy mood of indolence and rage, calibrated with ellipses in action, is stifling—everyone seems to move in a queasy haze. The climactic landscape shot—storms brewing over a harbor streaked with tankers and a distant man in silhouette—is suggestive of broader, communal malaise, yet confirms the film as an exemplary but deadening exercise.