directed by Erkut Altindağ

Why do we create fiction, why do we like it? Camus would argue, “fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth”. But I, honestly, could not give anything close to a precise answer to these questions, posed implicitly by The Curtain. As the eponymous curtain is drawn, four actors appear static on a stage. They begin to discuss a script that becomes increasingly hard to follow, due to the lack of visual references, until one pauses the conversation and removes his hat to exclaim “this is all fiction, everyone is already playing their roles”. Such a statement, of course, reaches far beyond the boundaries of this film or the characters’ discussed narrative. It probes not only the nature of fictions we view daily, but begs us to consider the self-derived fictions we live each day by. Am I just playing my role in society as I, and others, have defined across my lifetime? The inquisitive ends this film promotes are fascinating, but largely unanswerable. It is definitely a film of questions, not answers.

On my first viewing I was, frankly, lost. Narrative information seemed random, disconnected. And, instead of reading the piece as a whole its three vignettes presented vastly different ideas, styles and locales creating three almost entirely unrelated episodes. Only upon returning to review the first sequence did it all become clear. Although this is an interesting mode of cyclic storytelling, that piques viewers’ interest to return for more, ultimately the majority of viewers who will be exposed to this film (at film festivals) will only be able to view it a single time. It is important to consider such constraints in short film form. As such I would have thoroughly enjoyed returning to the first scene at the film’s climax, either for a continuation of their conversation or an exact repeat. Alternatively I believe this first section may have been enhanced had it been the film’s finale; the information delivered throughout the latter two vignettes enhance this scene greatly, far more than the inverse. Ultimately, one mustn’t underestimate the difficulty in transmitting abstract information, about people or events unknown to a listener, through dialogue in a short period of time. Especially when the dialogue is toying with numerous registers and topics at once, as it is here (explaining the upcoming plot, the nature of acting, the fact that these actors are performing). The rich complexity gives a second-time viewer much to expunge, but a single-viewing festivalgoer is likely to struggle in processing much, or any, of the information—inevitably resulting in its rejection by many viewers.

But, of course, here we must not suggest that we should necessarily make films with a specific audience or context in mind. Artistic integrity is always paramount, but, similarly, one must ensure the intent is refined and perfected through the many stages of filmmaking.

That said, the film’s style is rather rudimentary and peppered with distracting jags. Our very first image is laden with overexposure, a problem which persists due to numerous locations employing dynamic ranges far beyond the capabilities of the, clearly, sub-par camera. Colour correction may have helped to correct some of these issues, while a light colour-grade would have highlighted the vibrant tones inherent within the stage scene’s rich costume and set decoration. The cinematography brought together three disparate styles for each vignette, each evoking a unique mood. Yet these moods always felt slightly off-mark; the stage’s characters feeling awkwardly distant from one-another, the restaurant’s couple appearing creepy and ingenuine. Both these moods were, for me, triggered by the excessive use of single close-ups, isolating the performances from one another—restricting the actors from their primary tool; reacting. This visual obscurity was furthered in the sound mix, employing aesthetically unfitting stock-like music and occasional outcropping audio moments. Naturally, the majority of these complaints come with the suggestion of drawing one’s style closer to the norm, but such advice must be taken with a pinch of salt. With full intent, competence and conviction any radical style or aesthetic can become one of interest, validity and even revolution. Unfortunately these elements remained illusive in The Curtain.

Regardless, the questions that The Curtain incites are ones of incredible profundity, which I will remain to ponder over for days to come.