Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

Wanting to be found

The story sounds as though it could be a horror film, but that’s not how it plays.

I am talking about The Girl in the Woods, the newest film by Azerbaijani filmmaker Tofiq Rzayev. Attentive readers will remember me discussing a few months ago his previous, shorter film Aftermath, which dealt with an emotionally fraught relationship between a brother and a sister. This time around, Rzayev has expanded his tableau, not only in terms of running time and film locations but also narratively as well.

The film is in Turkish (in which it is called Ormandaki Kiz) and based on an English screenplay called Find Me by Rzayev. The Turkish version is by Rzayev and Erdogan Ulgur. Briefly, the setup is that Mert (Deniz Aslim) is concerned about a good friend of his. Ali has mysteriously gone missing. Ali’s fiancée Jeren (Gizem Aybike Shahin, who was also in Aftermath) is frantic with worry. The only clues are that another friend saw him heading for the woods and that Mert has received a strange text message from him that says simply, “Find me.”

It’s a premise that could set us on edge but, as I say, this does not have the trappings of a conventional thriller. With the static shots and natural lighting of an arthouse film, it all feels too realistic for us to expect the outlandish things that happen in commercial movies. When Mert inevitably goes wandering in the woods, there is no palpable sense of menace. Well, maybe when the titular girl observes a spider and its prey. Still, when things happen the way they end up happening, it is nearly as much a shock for us as it is for the character involved. It all has the feeling of a fable or a legend—maybe even an urban legend. The title suggests that the Western European literary counterpart for this story might be the tale recounted in John Keats’s 19th century ballad “La Belle Dame sans Merci.”

The craftsmanship here is first rate. For a film that is dialog heavy and eschews trendy techniques like fast cuts and visual effects, it really holds the attention. It seems much shorter than its not-quite-half-hour running time. In the title role, Cevahir Casgir makes a startling transition from a very friendly young woman to someone with deep burning temper. There is a moment when she gives Aslim a look that is downright startling and stays with you long after the film has ended. I can’t wait to see Rzayev take on a feature-length subject.

If you get a chance to see The Girl in the Woods, it’s definitely worth a look. Incidentally, Rzayev’s production company has one of the coolest names ever: Angry Student Productions. The film is scheduled to be released in September. Here is the poster:

The Girl in the Woods poster

-S.L., 28 July 2015


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