By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
“Leftovers” (2017), an utterly absorbing twelve-minute and forty second short film from director and co-writer Tofiq Rzayev, is sobering, heart-wrenching and undeniably powerful. It brings into account a meditation on the hellfire and purgatory one must endure for atrocious actions. Namely the rape and murder of an eight-year old girl. But, it is as adamant at addressing how such measures of wickedness immediately affects those who are closely tied to the situation. This is in both a familial and occupational sense. Much in the manner Rzayev issued with his previous entries from 2016, “Nihan: The Last Page”, “In a Time for Sleep” and his dazzling debut invention with Fidan Jafarova, “Araf”, the affair focuses on grief. Yet, this is without such primary agony ever becoming the sole selling point of the composition.
We note this most evidently in the method in which Rzayev, utilizing a bold and intelligently arranged screenplay he crafted with prior literary collaborators Alsen Buse Aydin and Mehmet Faith Guven, develops the personalities of the fiction magnificently. Such transpires via their reactions and mannerisms over the horror they encounter. This now trademark Rzayev storytelling device is spellbinding. It immerses viewers in the emotion overflowing from those on-screen to captivating effect. This is while simultaneously respecting the perpetually solemn tone Rzayev has so beautifully and carefully constructed. In turn, the harrowing impression of watching real life unfold never wavers. As a matter of fact, these wise narrative choices only amplify these attributes. The result is a mesmerizing masterpiece; a harrowing cinematic glimpse into the oft gloomy mechanisms of the human spirit.
Set in the Turkish Mountains, this Angry Student Films Production concerns two civil police (in fantastic portrayals by Ismail Mermer and Erhan Sancar that further etch the rugged authenticity at hand). They are in the process of taking a highly troubled and distressed person, credited here as The Individual (in a genuinely moving and emotionally riveting performance by Gokberk Kozan), to identify a body at a crime scene. Upon stopping to allow their passenger to collect himself, a series of foreboding turns enter the narrative. From herein, sentiments, motivations and judgments take hold. This is as the drama hits a brooding zenith. Such sets the stage for a second half that unflinchingly focuses on the reactions to the abovementioned tragedy. This is with anger and heartache almost always at the forefront. The ardor-laden intensity in this section is made progressively palpable. Such transpires alongside Rzayev’s decision to keep the entirety of these measures in the confines of an isolated location.
Originally titled “Geride Kalanlar”, Rzayev weaves an increasingly gripping, brilliantly paced and executed chronicle. It begins strikingly. This is with an incredibly done shot from the backseat of a moving vehicle. Such suggests that we, the audience, are a silent passenger to the alternately poignant and unnerving circumstances which are about to occur. An immediate interest such as this only grows as the scant runtime unfolds. It is pushed to an undeniably haunting, open-ended concluding sequence. This is a perfect departure for a composition such as Rzayev’s latest creation. Such is so because it forces bystanders to become ever-involved in what is being depicted. This is a courageous, evocative choice. It is one that also pays off handsomely. In turn, the overall success of the endeavor is even more vivid and astonishing.
From a technical angle, the opus is just as mesmerizing. Rzayev, who also produced, issues masterfully constructed editing. His brooding cinematography is exceptional. It holds a mirror to the life imitating qualities of both the tone and the account itself spectacularly well. This can also be spoken of the clean, quiet, phenomenally arranged and fitfully reverential concluding credits segment. Likewise, Zahit Battal Sari demonstrates a compelling presence as the voice of The Commissioner. Additionally, the script audibly rings with ruggedly poetic dialogue that is filled with sly introspection and keen observations. All of which are cut from the everyday. These remarkable details are all perpetual evidence of the sheer craftsmanship which pulsates hypnotically throughout the exertion.
More than anything, Rzayev’s guidance of the project is utterly triumphant. “Leftovers” continues to carry on an undeniable parallel to Swedish moviemaking auteur Ingmar Bergman. Such an awe-inspiring comparison helped make his sixteen prior efforts so memorable. Yet, his style remains distinctly his own. At a mere twenty-two years of age, Rzayev has already cemented himself as a modern maestro of the moving picture form. His material is consistently central figure-oriented, meditative and unafraid to peer into the most unpleasant of social issues. Rzayev’s material, a reflection of his own personal reservations, engraves a certain wide-spread intimacy because of this factor. It is a detail that visibly resonates through one of his undertakings. He speaks to the humanity in us all. This is while simultaneously articulating to the mind. Rzayev’s most current tour de force is no exception. This is unquestionably one of the best efforts of its type of the year.