Rachel Arundel reviews The Girl in the Woods, a short film by Tofiq Rzayev
Filmmaker Tofiq Rzayev, from Azerbaijan, is back this September with his latest short film, The Girl in the Woods; a Turkish-language adaptation of the original English screenplay, Find Me.
Launching straight in to the central narrative, Deniz Aslim’s character, Mert, receives a mysterious text message from his friend Ali, containing one simple instruction: ‘Find Me’. When this is immediately followed by a frantic phone call from Ali’s fiancee, Jeren (Gizem Aybike Shahin), who is struggling to get in touch with him, the scene is set for an emotionally charged mystery as the pair try to work out what has become of their friend.
The lengthy melancholic scenes that follow between Jeren and Mert unfold almost like a docu-drama, touching on themes of love, friendship and trust and providing some of the most heart-warming and natural sequences of dialogue within the film. Although this change in tone forces some of the suspense from the opening sequence to melt, the intrigue of Ali’s situation lingers on as Jeren, Mert and Jem (Mehmet Samer) try to piece together the scattered clues that he has left behind.
Dedicated to finding his friend, Mert ventures in to the local woodland where Ali was last seen and, in doing so, uncovers a surprise twist in the tale in the form of a beautiful, mysterious maiden: The Girl in the Woods (Jevahir Jashgir). With little context or opportunity to develop, Jashgir’s psychotic ‘siren’ falls a bit flat, while the relationship between she and Mert lacks chemistry, leading to a somewhat unconvincing climax. The explanation that is eventually given for her behaviour is a case of ‘too little, too late’ and feels frustratingly contrived as it clashes against the slower pace and naturalistic tone of the opening sequences.
Despite a few technical issues with sound recording and subtitles, there are some well-directed moments during the film and some poignant exchanges between the characters; particularly Mert and Jeren. The film does a great job of promoting the natural beauty of Azerbaijan and some of the shorter sequences and establishing shots demonstrate a lot of potential in Rzayer’s cinematographic skills. Unfortunately, however, the narrative of The Girl in the Woods seems to struggle to locate a middle-ground between gritty urban drama and fantastical fairytale, leaving the plot with no choice but to echo Ali’s message: ‘Find Me’.
The Girl in the Woods is released in September 2015