James Mulvey

Small Town Violence Through a Cosmopolitan Lens: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and The Conceptual Personae

Year: 2017

Keywords: , ,


University College Cork
(at time of presentation)

Personal profile:

James Mulvey is a PhD candidate in Film and Screen Media at University College Cork. He received a Master of Arts degree from University College Dublin in Philosophy and Literature, and a second MA in Film Studies at University College Cork. His research interests include film-philosophy, aesthetics, contemporary cinema and cosmopolitanism.



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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011), renders visible the forces that shape the attitudes of a group of men who set out to find a body. The group includes local police, gravediggers, the murderer, his brother, a judge and a doctor. The relationship between the men is articulated through a hierarchy of violence, expressing the reality of small-town bureaucratic life.

Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan recreates a narrative his co-scriptwriter, Ecran Kesal, experienced as a young doctor in Anatolia, but lends his own personality to the conceptualised character. As a country boy returning home from the city, Ceylan ruthlessly turns a cosmopolitan lens on the attitudes that shaped his youth. For Gilles Deleuze, aesthetics is part of the process of thought, and if it can mirror reality it is free to experiment with it. I argue that Ceylan’s creation is what Deleuze and Felix Guattari call a “Conceptual Personae”, which Ceylan uses to manoeuvre the terrain of his past and present, skilfully leading the spectator through violent landscapes.

The “Conceptual Personae” provides a critical and artistic form for Ceylan to explore his youth as an adult, through a complex hybrid of the local/cosmopolitan. Ceylan simultaneously occupies the dual position of canny local and passive observer; thus, his becoming-doctor produces sympathetic effects in the spectator, where chaos intersects with order.