“In a Time for Sleep” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

On its surface Trofiq Rzayev’s fourteen minute, 18+ rated short, “In a Time for Sleep”, is about a turbulent relationship. It is one which explodes into un-meditated violence. This is during what it meant to be a celebratory one-month anniversary dinner. Such shockingly transpires between our heroine, Leyla (an incredibly honed depiction by Goknur Danishik that is both vulnerable and aggressive in equal doses), and her ungrateful boyfriend, Arda (a terrific performance by Mehmet Faith Guven that greatly enhances the credibility on-screen). Yet, the Turkish language piece, released through Angry Student Productions, derives poetry and dramatic resonance from a set-up less competent filmmakers would use for traditional thriller conventions.

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Screenwriters Guven and Rzayev also add quiet commentaries on the intervention of fate. This arises most readily from the bond Leyla finds in an unnamed woman (a strong representation by Elif Barut) she meets, and partners up with, along the way. For most brief features this would be enough. Despite this, Guven and Rzayev focus sharply on how the incident, whose action and deliberation of potential consequences take up the first half of the composition, shapes Leyla’s sense of liberation. In the wake of the bloodshed, she also unveils her true self. The emotive heft of this reveal becomes all the more poignant. Such occurs with the realization that this individual spirit was abandoned, discarded even, during her time with Arda. This is powerful material. It is made all the more potent by the meticulous care and craftsmanship at hand. Such reverberates through every frame and creative influence from the moviemakers herein.

Much like Rzayev’s terrific “Nihan: The Last Page”, which also concerned the difficult aftermath of a liaison, Guven and Rzayev find a tone that is striking and consistently mature to tell their transformative tale. It is also stunningly beautiful. This is issued immediately. It is only expanded upon as the affair unravels. Most incredibly, there is an authenticity about the situations and what comes from them. Furthermore, the characterizations and the overall veneer share this attribute splendidly. Likewise, the pace is brilliantly etched. It offers even time to contemplate every major turn in its narrative events. This is without feeling rushed. Moreover, it never betrays the believable, slice of life nature. Such is accomplished effortlessly throughout. The script is intelligent, multi-layered and awe-inspiringly fashioned. Rzayev’s directorial contribution is elegant, often understated, gentle and endlessly impressive. It, again, showcases Rzayev’s absolute mastery of the cinematic craft. All of these elements are also much in line with the previously stated endeavor.

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The other technical facets are just as astounding. Rzayev’s cinematography is illustrious. It fits the eloquent atmosphere of the chronicle terrifically well. The same can be said for his input to the editing of the undertaking. The original score by Gergo Elekes and songs by Serif Ahmet Ege are transcendent and touching. David Kislik’s visual effects are phenomenal. These components only further increase the plausibility Rzayev is obviously striving for. An inventively done concluding credits bit only heighten the appeal.

Rzavey has created a full-bodied masterpiece. “In a Time for Sleep” is entirely fulfilling as a gripping account. It is just as ravishing as a study of those we encounter on-screen. From Leyla’s commencing line, “You’ve destroyed everything!”, to its uniquely uplifting climax: our attention is piqued throughout. Yet, its emphasis on thoughtfulness, spied most readily in even its most miniscule of instances, is the most encapsulating component of all. What is just as astonishing is how this is all consummated in such a transitory duration. Rzayev’s latest satisfies on all aspects. For those of us who adore a moving picture which challenges and compels, as well as invigorates and leaves a lasting impression, this is mandatory viewing.

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“Nihan: The Last Page”- (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Nihan poster

“Nihan: The Last Page” is an evocative, elegiac and enigmatic fourteen minute dramatic short, released through Angry Student Productions and directed with an impeccably masterful eye for communicating emotion through both sight and sound by Tofiq Rzayev. It is one which is achingly beautiful. This is true in both its plot, symbolism and execution. It addresses the wrenching transition from clinging to a painful loss, unable to let go because of the agony associated with saying farewell to a loved one, to the early stages of acceptance spectacularly well. This expressive turmoil the piece accomplishes with endless sincerity and maturity. It also elucidates an understated tone that is perfect for the material. These aforementioned characteristics are unveiled in the gorgeously honed performances. They are also erected mesmerizingly from both Rzayev’s dark, moody and glorious cinematography and smoothly fashioned editing.

The somber luster illustrated within this endeavor not only helps set the contemplative tone of the piece instantly but, also works terrifically with the sounds of an unseen storm raging off-screen. This occurs in its opening four and closing three minutes. It not only adds to the poetic sensibilities so meticulously woven throughout the endeavor but, it also evokes an intimate extension of the inner-turmoil welling within the lead of the narrative, The Man (a portrayal by Erhan Sancar that is as brilliant and riveting as Rzayev and Mustafa Erdogan Ulgur’s spectacularly crafted screenplay demands). The piece holds onto the sentimental impact it ruminates from these early instances and sharpens them greatly throughout the sparse runtime. This, along with the meticulous and stunning craftsmanship that has obviously gone into conjuring this impression, results in a composition that resonates constant endless quiet and pensive power. These merits exist on all technical and storytelling levels. Its potent effects linger with you long after its ethereal and gripping conclusion.

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This multi-layered and absorbing endeavor concerns the gentle, and previously stated, chief individual. He is on the final sheet of a volume he is penning about his deceased love, Nihan (an enactment by Sevgi Uchgayabashi, who is also credited with the original idea for this phenomenal effort, which is fittingly tender and transcendent in equal doses). The book addresses the life the two lived together, as well as their ambitions as a couple. Hearing Nihan’s tender voice from behind him, an incident which transpires on both occasions the turbulent weather is heard raging to heighten the already overwhelming emblematic and demonstrative effect, The Man fights to finish the task at hand. But, as he speaks to Sister (an outstanding depiction by Alsen Buse Aydin), as he does in the riveting mid-section sequence of this brief bit of cinema, we learn that the house once held the promise of fulfilling the numerous desires he is currently writing about. This, along with putting the romantic rapport behind him, coerces a realization that the home, as much as actual association, could be the largest obstacles present in ending his literary effort. The protagonist’s problems become all the more immediate, in both their need to be addressed and resolved, when The Man finds out that Nihan’s wishes were unwittingly disrespected. This arises when he uncovers that others will soon be moving in to the once joyous domicile.

The storyline is undoubtedly thoughtful, soul-stirring and heart-tugging. Furthermore, the sign evident in the final page, and this being aligned along the completion of an ardent affiliation cut short before it could take root, presents various layers of allegory and depth in itself. Yet, Rzayev and his filmmaking crew find a way to bring these numerous inner-meanings to the surface. Such is issued with a consistently stunning allure. This is astonishing, as it is always formulated in a fresh and continually sophisticated manner.

What is all the more impressive is that the tale continously utilizes a dependably smooth, steady pace. It is one that never impresses upon the mind the idea of being anything less than the movement of life itself as we, the audience, watch it unfold before us. There is a natural progression to the proceedings which allows both engaging character-development and the necessary notes of melancholy and personal growth to take front stage without feeling either too gradual or rushed. This is achieved in a way that is striking and, simultaneously, makes the pain The Man is suffering all the more accessible to every viewer. Such makes the high sensitivity flowing throughout the affair all the more illustrious and impactful. Gergo Elekes’ luminous and memorable music, Busra Ozturk’s outstanding make-up and the sleek art direction by Zhivko Petrov only further punctuate these already palpable attributes. This results in an absolute masterpiece of short cinema; one of the most fully feeling configurations of its ilk that I have witnessed in quite some time.

Rzayev is a colossal talent. The proof shines in the credible dialogue he has given the three distinct personalities which populate his tale. It is also apparent in his visible mastery of framing and the manner in which “Nihan: The Last Page” makes you feel like a quiet witness to a succession of ravishingly done segments, all of which appear taken directly from the perpetual turmoil of human existence. What is just as remarkable is that the approach present here is reminiscent of the legendary filmic maestro, Ingmar Bergman. There is also a theatrical quality to this cinematic invention, a characteristic often present in Bergman’s material, that makes its artistic and life-imitating aspects combine marvelously. This creates a singular, and defiantly brilliant, experience. It is one that commands both multiple observances and awe from those lucky enough to be caught in its hypnotic and grandly compelling presence.

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You can check out the IMDB page for the short film here.