Eyup takes the blame for his politician boss, Servet, after a hit and run accident. In return he accepts a pay-off from his boss, believing it will make life for his wife, Hacer, and teenage son, Ismail, more secure.

Ismail falls into bad company, becoming uninterested in the life he once led. Hacer, wanting to help her son, asks Servet for an advance, but soon gets more involved in him than she had anticipated. Eyup’s return from prison is the catalyst that works to bring all these storylines to a climactic finale.

Three Monkeys, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s most recent cinematic venture, is imbued with a mesmeric brilliance from start to finish. Though strikingly frugal in its execution—this is a man whose cast list rarely exceeds the bounds of his immediate family—it is neither deficient in spectacle nor in energy. One gets the real sense that this is Ceylan’s natural environment, affording him the ability to manoeuvre seamlessly through images and ideas that would have tripped up many an otherwise talented director.

Three Monkeys shares a deep likeness with the novellas of Alberto Moravia. Here in Ceylan’s film, as in Moravia’s Two Adolescents, the family emerges as a site of philosophical contention, a place into which all adjacent conflict is pointedly focused, with each character shocked into a desperate awareness of themselves and those around them.

The family, in Three Monkeys, serves as a stage, a plane upon which drama can be produced. This is borne out in what the director himself has to say about the film—’Since the beginning of my adolescence, what has most intrigued, perplexed and at the same time scared me, has been the realisation of the incredibly wide scope of what goes on in the human psyche. I have always been astonished to see in the human soul the co-existence of the power to rule and the potential to forgive, the interest in the most holy and in that of the lowest banality, love and hate.’

But to imply that this is nothing more than a philosophical treatise would be to do the film a grave disservice. To return to Ceylan’s affinity with the environment in which Three Monkeys is set, it could be said that he never misses a shot. Every image serves as an unflinching record of Ceylan’s eye for the piercing and the beautiful, with the final shot arguably as traumatic as the final revelation it serves to illustrate.


Five stars.