Study Guide for Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2008)

three-monkeysDiscussion Questions for Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Three Monkeys

  1. Watch the opening sequence of “Three Monkeys” closely and discuss how it helps to set the tone of the film and how it helps you identify the theme(s) of the film.
  2. Examine the location of the flat in which Eyup, Hacer and Ismail live. It overlooks the sea and the railroad. How does this contribute to your understanding of the family?
  3. How does the size of the house contribute to your understanding of the film?
  4. Why do you think the camera often emphasize the partitions in the flat?
  5. What is the significance of the terrace in the film?
  6. What could Ismail’s climbing up the fence to reach the station connote?
  7. What is the symbolic value of Ismail’s train rides?
  8. What is the significance of the cityscapes and the clouds? Why is there an emphasis on rain and lightning?
  9. Examine the shots that show Hacer in her workplace. How do these shots help you understand Hacer’s psychology?
  10. In your view, what is the symbolic value of the politican’s office in the film?
  11. Comment on the use of mirrors and windows in the film.
  12. Discuss what the following names connote in the film: Hacer, Ismail, Eyup and Servet.
  13. What is the function of the ringtone of Hacer’s cellphone? What does the song signify? Why do you think the director has chosen a Yıldız Tilbe song?
  14. Why do you think Ceylan’s camera chooses to concentrate on Eyup’s face while the audience is made to feel that Hacer is about to commit suicide?
  15. Why does the director keep his camera at a distance when Hacer and Servet meet secretly and when Hacer begs him not to leave her? What effect does this have on you?
  16. What do you think about Ceylan’s portrayal of Hacer in the film?
  17. What is the reason for the emphasis on “sweat” in the film?
  18. How is “sound” used in the film? How does it contribute to Ceylan’s story? Identify some specific scenes where sound is important and discuss how and why it is used.
  19. What is the significance of the dead child in the film? Why do we see him appearing only to Eyup and Ismail?
  20. What message(s) do you think the last shot of the film conveys?
  21. To what extent would you call the family in the film a microcosm of contemporary Turkish society?
  22. Examine the metaphor of “monkey” in the film? Who are the “monkeys” in the film? Why? Does the title contain a social allegory?
  23. “I’m not interested in events that are by far too special that they cannot happen to anyone”, said Nuri Bilge Ceylan in an interview on television. Discuss Ceylan’s statement in relation to “Three Monkeys”.
  24. Extension Activity:
    Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory”:
    Hemingway views his writing style as “fashioned on the “principle of the iceberg,” for “seven eights of it [is] under water for every part that shows” (cited in Thomas Strychacz, 1999, in The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway, Scott Donaldson (Ed.), p. 59). In other words, as Hemingway said, “You could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood” (cited in Elizabeth Dewberry, 1999, in The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway, Scott Donaldson, Ed., p. 23)
    Discuss whether or not and/or how Hemingway’s metaphor of “iceberg” can be applied to Bilge Ceylan’s style as far as “Three Monkeys” is concerned.

© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, January 2009
Photos: Courtesy of NBC Films
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