After the highly acclaimed TV series “The Scorpion Season,” director Emil Guliyev unveiled his latest film to the eager audience. He extended invitations to Hikmat Rahimov and Azer Aydemir, both prominent actors from “Season of the Scorpion,” to take on the lead roles in the film. The screenplay was collaboratively crafted by Nurlan Hasanli and Nijat Mukhtarov, working closely with the director himself. Orkhan Abbasoff, the director of photography of the third film of the “Curtain” trilogy, is also responsible for creating the visual language of the film for “The Final Curtain”. At first glance, there are certainly ample reasons to be excited about watching this film. Moreover, the genre, a psychological thriller, is a relatively rare offering in our country’s cinema landscape, and when attempted, it often falls short of success. This rarity alone adds an extra layer of intrigue. Having covered these intriguing “Behind the Scenes” moments of the movie, let’s delve into the film itself.
Hasan, a 33-year-old sales manager at a construction company, finds himself facing unexpected challenges in his married life with Farida, as they both long for children but have been struggling with infertility. The burden of infertility has become the central issue in Hasan and Farida’s life, casting a shadow over their hopes and dreams. Hasan resides with his mother, leading to the classic clash of daughter and mother-in-laws tensions that come with it. In addition to these domestic challenges, rumors circulating within their family circle add to the heavy load Hasan carries in his heart. Regrettably, Hasan’s professional life also presents its own set of problems, as he fills in for Samir’s (Azer Aydemir) relative who doesn’t contribute much to the company. Hasan often finds himself relegated to the role of a coffee server for Samir, all the while hoping to foster a genuine friendship with him. He harbors high expectations of his career, yearning for a promotion within the company as he continues to toil away.
The depiction of the protagonist’s dire circumstances, his relentless quest for a solution through countless doctor visits, is sufficient to establish the dramatic authenticity of the story. The camera meticulously tracks and observes every facet of his journey throughout the film, leaving no detail outside his focus. Hasan is either an active participant in the unfolding events, allowing us to witness them directly, or we experience these events through his perspective. This deliberate narrative approach signals that the hero is on the brink of profound transformation, and all eyes are firmly fixed on Hasan.
In their desperation, Hasan and Farida even heed their mothers’ advice and seek out a local midwife for assistance. Remarkably, Farida swiftly becomes pregnant, kindling hope for a brighter future. However, their journey takes an unexpected turn as the narrative unfolds. Emil Guliyev, the filmmaker, doesn’t present these events in a linear sequence. Instead, he employs time transitions, sometimes rewinding to the beginning, at another times leaping ahead, occasionally shifting focus to different locations within the city or region. This non-traditional narrative approach serves to construct a unique cinematic time frame, one that prioritizes dynamics and tension, effectively keeping the audience engrossed right up to the final moments – if the film alleges to be thriller then it is necessary. Film’s central theme aligns seamlessly with film form which is not what we typically encounter in our cinema.
While other films under the “Curtain” series might claim to be thrillers, “The Second Curtain” arguably stands out as the best. What truly generates tension in this film is the sheer shock and hysteria experienced by those exposed to its violence, which is marked by its unpredictability. Prolonged scenes of torture and the haunting sounds of cries play a pivotal role in crafting this effect. But narrative unfolds gradually, steadily building towards its climax here, and as a result, any potential stretches in the story remain inconspicuous. What sets it apart is the way it seamlessly integrates violence into the storyline; it doesn’t force it upon the viewer like pornography. Instead, violence emerges organically from within the plot, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t linger excessively. In this regard, “I’ve Been Here Alone” successfully sets itself apart from its predecessors in a very positive light.
The precise portrayal of the characters and the underlying motives guiding their actions are skillfully developed throughout the first half of the film. A pivotal moment that subtly signals the hero’s transformation occurs with a single cup of coffee. Hasan, who has always been the one to prepare coffee for Samir but never partaken in it himself, experiences a significant shift after learning about Farida’s pregnancy. As he passes by the mobile coffee vendor, he decides to stop and purchase a cup of coffee for the first time, not for Samir, but for himself as well as Farida. In a moment that carries deeper significance, he turns to Farida, even though she may not fully grasp its meaning, and utters these words: “Real men drink coffee”.
For Hasan, Samir serves as a true role model – a man gets a voice in life, a stable home, children. It’s now Hasan’s turn to step into the role of a man. These moments are meticulously built up until the film’s turning point, but unfortunately, they seem to be forgotten thereafter. The cause-and-effect relationship that initially governed the protagonist’s actions gives way to erratic and nonsensical behavior, as well as sudden outbursts of anger, which, at a certain point, diminish the believability of his character. Throughout all of this, the nature of Hasan and Samir’s relationship remains unclear. The film fails to reveal the depth of Hasan’s feelings toward Samir, who alternately supports and crushes him. It leaves the audience questioning the form Hasan’s attitude has taken towards Samir. Consequently, one of the film’s three main narrative threads raises more questions than it provides answers for, leaving the audience wanting for a more conclusive resolution.
From the very beginning of the film, what truly stands out is Orkhan Abbasoff’s masterful command of the camera and his remarkable ability to delve deep into the psyche of his characters. As the camera seamlessly tracks Hasan’s every move, it consistently unveils fresh facets of his persona. Even in moments of repetition, it manages to peel back new layers of his character’s complexity. The film’s predominant color palette, dominated by somber grays and chilling blues, effectively conveys the profound distress and anxiety haunting the protagonist. This cold, muted spectrum mirrors the turmoil within Hasan’s soul. A particularly striking visual moment occurs during the driving scene when a portion of Hasan’s face remains shrouded in darkness. This visual choice powerfully symbolizes the internal struggle between good and evil that rages within our tormented hero. While such cinematic techniques have been employed in international cinema on numerous occasions, it is heartening to see them slowly finding their place in our own cinematic lexicon.
Another aspect propelling the film forward is its adept utilization of sound design within various scenes. Take, for instance, the pivotal moment when Hasan receives critical news regarding his health. The cacophony of background voices gradually recedes into the distance, leaving only the doctor’s dialogue distinctly audible. This auditory isolation serves to disconnect our protagonist from the mundane world, immersing him in his own contemplative realm. Such inventive sound design choices manifest recurrently throughout the film. However, it’s worth noting that there are instances in which an excess of music is employed, seemingly in an attempt to amplify the dramatic intensity of certain scenes. Regrettably, these moments don’t always succeed as effectively as intended.
“I’ve Been Here Alone” adeptly fits the psychological thriller genre, blending elements of camera work, sound design, and editing. While certain script issues persist, and the protagonist’s actions may remain unjustifiable, the technical aspects skillfully compensate for these shortcomings. Remarkably, the film even momentarily transitions into the realm of horror, adding a captivating dimension that keeps viewers thoroughly engaged.
Within the film, Hikmet Rahimov masterfully portrays Hasan’s inner turmoil and moments of uncertainty. Even when the script doesn’t fully justify the character’s darker moments, Rahimov’s statements provide invaluable support to the director’s vision. Nevertheless, the true revelation of the film comes in the form of Nasiba Eldarova, who portrays a midwife character. Eldarova’s body language impeccably captures the opportunism, unapologetic deception, and hypocrisy inherent to this traditional character of a charlatan and fraudster.
The film’s finale, featuring Emil Guliyev’s trademark “open finale,” leaves the audience with lingering questions and encourages them to revisit and ponder the film’s themes. However, it could be argued that in this instance, the director falls short of achieving his intended goal, and just finishes the another nonterminating film like previous ones. Nevertheless, when evaluating all the aspects of Emil Guliyev’s work, “Behind the Scenes: I’ve Been Here Alone” manages to distinguish itself in a positive light. It’s safe to assert that, until he surpasses this achievement with a future project, this film stands as the pinnacle of Emil Guliyev’s cinematic career.