Wordy and philosophical - like Ibsen or Chekhov a la Turk - the Palme d'Or-winning Winter Sleep is merciless in its portrayal of a flawed, vain-glorious individual who, in Biblical terms, does not see the mote in his own eye.

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a former actor who is now the proprietor of a hotel in a bleak, poverty-stricken village in the Anatolia region of Turkey. He may believe he is a reasonable man, a local worthy who can be charitable; he is first and foremost the local landlord.  

Aydin and his sister Necla (Demet Akbag) between them own properties which are effectively renovated caves, rented out to the local people.

Necla is separated and disenchanted and lives in Aydin's house, while Aydin's much-younger wife Nihal (Melisa Sözen) has her own quarters under the same roof. Their marriage is as good as dead, although neither party is ready to admit this and move on. A kind of sclerosis of the heart has set in, and winter draws in too with a fall of snow.

As well as being a hotelier and landlord, Aydin is also a polemicist of sorts, who writes what he believes are perceptive, thought-provoking columns for a local newspaper. A non-believer and a self-styled progressive thinker, he considers himself enlightened, unlike most of the local Muslim population.

He conducts himself with an odiously patronising air when dealing with such locals and the drama pivots around one such interaction, when a young boy throws a stone at Aydin's car and breaks a window.

The fall-out from the boy's rebellious act is like a running sore throughout director Ceylan's lengthy, brooding drama. Meanwhile, scenes from Aydin and Nihal's marriage are worked out in an unusually long, embittered exchange by lamplight and a crackling fire. They both talk about moving to Istanbul - separately, of course - much as the three sisters talk with longing of Moscow in Chekhov's eponymous play.

In its close attention to the seed-bed of marital discord, the film resembles classic Ingmar Bergman of the mid-1970s. Turkish intonation - at least when people are arguing - sounds somewhat similar to that of Swedish to this reviewer's ears. Thus the declarations of man and wife in this taut drama could, for all the world, have been Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann having it out in Scenes From A Marriage or A Passion, 40 years ago.

Nevertheless, the film retains a firm sense of its own setting in remote, austerely beautiful Turkey, as a woman challenges her fate, while married to a man who himself has a fatal flaw. 

The director's previous film, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia - co-winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011 - relied on secrecy and concealment in the aftermath of a homicide, in spectacular mountain country. Textually, it was less adventurous than Winter Sleep, with all that silence and those worried middle-aged men trying to mask their vulnerabilities. But both films are the work of a seriously gifted director.

Winter Sleep is at the IFI, Dublin and Light House Cinema, Dublin from Friday November 21, 2014.

Paddy Kehoe