The Azerbaijani film has been successful because audiences can see themselves in the heroes
It’s time to face the truth – Azerbaijan’s ‘mass cinema’, to put it mildly, has been a joke of controversial quality. Directors have given it the depth presented by masters of the Soviet period, but if some talented young people shoot something for international film festivals you won’t find it in cinemas.
A while ago the short film producer Emil Guliyev appeared with his first ‘real’ film, The Curtain. The film tells the story of a modern day Azerbaijani Romeo and Juliet and their struggle with local prejudices and rules imposed by society. Audiences were shocked. The heroes cursed using real swear words, there was drama, and topics that are usually only touched upon in social media were openly discussed. The film tells a straightforward story, and although it contains a revolting montage and ‘wooden’ acting at times, it was well received.
A sequel was highly anticipated.
The plot of The Curtain Two was foreseeable; the husband (Hikmer Ragimov) catches his wife (Gunay Ahmed) cheating on him and has to decide what to do. The film focuses on men’s hidden fears, namely adultery. Reactions to it will always be a painful topic for most of Azerbaijani society.
It’s clear that the film’s budget was much larger, and there are no deliberately rough jumps from frame to frame. This time the director decided to use more ‘cinematic’ tools: camera movement, lighting, framing and even color correction.
Unfortunately, the camera operator has slightly infused the drama with horror. The camera trembles all the time, like in films with monster attacks. Another difficult to comprehend technique is that, for some reason, the director refused to utilize wide angle shots, so audiences see the actors’ faces up close for the entire film, as if they are embracing them.
And one more final annoying trick – excessive realism. If an actor is eating in a shot, then you will see food particles flying out of his mouth. This doesn’t happen in just one scene either. During one of the more emotional scenes, it’s impossible to focus on anything other than the mucus dangling off the actor’s face for a good five minutes, and it’s rather distracting for a generally good acting job.
Emil Guliyev decided not to repeat the confrontation between ‘them’ and ‘us’. This time, there’s only ‘them’, people for whom this ‘mentality’, this backward notion of morality, has become a ‘third parent’.
Backwardness aside, the idea of revenge for betrayal was very popular. It seems that all of Baku’s youth has seen it, and many viewers, when talking about the main character have said: “I would do the same thing if I were him.”
So, what did the deceived husband do? A spoiler was in the very first trailer: he killed his wife and her lover. Not immediately or quickly though, only after verbally belittling them, beating them, immobilizing them, condemning them, and threatening them with a gun.
And before that, we see that Tim (the protagonist) is a positive character, because he works hard to support his family and is always willing to lend money.
I personally would like to see the continuation of another storyline. That of Ibisha (Elshan Askerov), a quiet, speechless man, who, due to a lack of money and natural kindness, is continuously henpecked.
Emil Guliyev has again lengthened a short film. Cut out, or cut back a third of the film, and absolutely nothing would change. But you can understand that there’s a minimum length for the director to move to the big screen. If released on the internet, this film would simply get lost.
The idea has arisen to make a short series of The Curtain, where each part is devoted to a separate ruined ‘mentality’ of life. It will be interesting to see the third part of the series as least. Especially if the camera keeps things smooth this time.