Zeki Demirkubuz plays the lead character Ahmet who wants to make a film about Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’. He falls into a deep depression, loses interest in the film and life, pushes those who love him away and cannot complete the film.
The third film in the trilogy, Tales about Darkness, Bekleme Odası (The Waiting Room) tells the story of Ahmet, a director who wants to film Dostoyevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment. Although Ahmet considers himself a conceited and faithless man, others perceive him as an idealist who lives by his principles. While in the grip of a disquieting disinterest in both his personal life and his film, Ahmet decides to cast a thief he had once caught trying to break into his house as Raskolnikov, the novel’s lead character, even though he has no idea where to find him. Bekleme Odası is a film that asks whether positive values such as spirituality and solitude can be the deliberate choices of egotism and arrogance. Can the exalted positions which used to be granted only to heroes as a reward for their suffering suit the selfish, morally troubled anti-hero of today? Zeki Demirkubuz says: “In the five films that I have made until today, I tried to narrate the stories of tens of people. However, after each film I saw that filmmaking itself has human situations, suspicions, questions and themes that are at least as powerful as those in the films. Having personally experienced them had a separate allure to itself. This idea that first hit me after making Üçüncü Sayfa (The Third Page) became a real thought after Yazgı (Fate). Ridding myself of my anger and emotions and the subjectivity that comes from having lived through it took two more years. And in the end a film that I thought accomplished at least these things – a distanced film that had no biographical or personal characteristics – emerged.”
Some interesting facts:
- The title (Waiting Room or The Waiting Room) has been used before. And not just by Fugazi. link
- But this isn’t the only “familiar” aspect of Demirkubuz’s latest. Here’s what he says in about it in the official 2004 Ljubljana International Film Festival catalogue: it is “a distant film free of biographic and personal qualities.”
- Distant? An interesting word to use. Distant is the English title of Uzak, a film whose success has, in the last year or so, propelled writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan to the front rank of Turkish film-makers in terms of international profile. Previously Demirkubuz was perhaps marginally the better-known: he’d had two films selected for the same Cannes Film Festival – Fate and Confession. It turns out that Demirkubuz and Ceylan are the best of friends. So is The Waiting Room some kind of response to Uzak? Perhaps a parody? Is this some kind of private “conversation” between film-makers which the audience is, in effect, eavesdropping into?
- Uzak takes place largely in a central Istanbul flat which is the residence of a prickly artist/intellectual. Most of the sound we hear is “ambient” – street noise, the cries of birds, etc.
- The Waiting Room takes place largely in a central Istanbul flat which is the residence of a prickly artist/intellectual – Ahmet, played by Demirkubuz himself. Most of the sound we hear is “ambient” – street noise, the cries of birds, etc. Harbour gulls.
- If anything, the protagonist of The Waiting Room is even more prickly and unpleasant than that of Uzak – you’d have to go back to Philippe Harel in Whatever for a more unflattering instance of a writer-director casting himself as the lead in his own film.
- Ahmet is a womanising auteur. Struggling with a Dostoyevsky adaptation. Raskolnikov identifications. Demirkubuz himself has tried to adapt the same book, Crime and Punishment – this is apparently the result. Is the choice of character-name supposed to indicate that the real writer-director (whose first name begins with Z) is somehow the “opposite” of the fictional one (whose first name begins with A).
- Travails of a bourgeous. Crisis of creative confidence: “Maybe I’ll find an easier way to humiliate myself.”
- His problem is not one failure but success: jaded at the summit, which turns out to be something of a dead end. Ahmet’s film is about “negation”. Life as a ‘waiting room’ for death?
- Convincing portrait of successful, solipsistic artist – as many biographies will attest. Perhaps too convincing: portrait of couch-potato louse. Emotional black hole: “Is he the devil or just plain crazy”. Not easy to be around an artist like this, not least because they always seem to end up using everyone they meet in some way. Sex is only the most obvious one, re Ahmet. Randy old goat – all women in the film become his conquests. He’s catnip even to much younger women. Woody Allen syndrome.
- All totally deadpan, but humour even more low-key and subtle than that in Uzak, which wasn’t by any means any kind of Carry on Up the Bosphorus…
- Moves at punishingly slow snail’s pace. Oblique touches of oddball to maintain our interest (some shenanigans involving a runaway cat which has abandoned its kittens – heavy-handed symbolism?). Raskolnikov amorality: crime sans punishment.
- “The creative process” reveals itself to be “The creative stasis.”
- Builds to climactic “joke”: Ahmet resolves his block by writing a film called The Waiting Room. Yes, that cheap old navelgazing trick. Funnier if his character had been called ‘Nuri’ and we’d seen him embark on ‘Distant’ at the fade…
Subtitles:English srt subs