With the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Moscow Government and the Department of Culture of the city of Moscow



“Gloomy streets with gloomy people; some accident leaves the main character unemployed thus putting him outside “respected society”, and it seems like the fall will never end. One misfortune follows another, and no one is willing to help, as it turns out, dog eat dog…”. That’s how our festival newspaper was describing Erdem Tepegöz’ debut feature “Zerre” seven years ago — for this very film the debutant director received the Golden George award at the 35 MIFF. The same words can be rightfully addressed to his new film “In The Shadows”. Could it be the case that every true artist spends their life creating one great piece of art? Possibly yes. Should that be the case, Erdem Tepegöz’ trajectory is moving from social drama to criticizing the very core of the world order. Atheistically oriented Soviet critics would probably also mention something about “theomachy” here, but it appears to be a bit more complicated than that. In “Zerre” the protagonist had a name (Zeinap), she had family, friends, neighbors, and quite an “earthly” surrounding landscape as the action mainly took place in the Istanbul slums. In the new film, the main character – he’s played by Numan Acar, a star of Turkish cinema with Hollywood background - is deprived of everything, including the name. Together with his co-workers, he wanders some dystopian space that looks like a mix between “Stalker” and steampunk aesthetics.  What unites these two protagonists? First off, the general feeling of irrelevance, powerlessness, and hopelessness. Second of all – the Factory. The director seems to be enchanted with the power and soullessness of the industrial giants of the Twentieth century. In “Zerre” it was represented by a weaving plant where the workers “goose-stepped”, slept side by side on the floor and were rewarded by a broth bowl per day. In Tepegöz’ new feature the monstrous factory expands into something of an Ancient monster or a god.  Its rusty mechanisms live a life of their own, seemingly busy with grinding ore (the film was shot at an abandoned Soviet plant in Georgia). It’s clear to everyone, including the characters, that this work is absolutely senseless. Several dozens of powerless people are busy from dusk till dawn serving the machines (none of which are modern, the newest ones are from the 60s at best). In any dubious situation, the soulless voice from the reproducer calls upon them to disperse and go back to work.  Every space, including shower rooms where men and women shower together (body and gender conventions appear to be lost here, reminding of a concentration camp), is equipped with a camera. People here are constantly being monitored and are aware of that. Sometimes, someone invisible – perhaps another machine? – delivers them food, conducts checkups, and provides other stuff according to the “factory whistle” (which is also featured). This aesthetically wholesome setting where every single angle of the industrial dystopia is cherished, allows Erdem Tepegöz to create a truly Promethean myth. The locomotive of this myth – a thing that one day will allow to destroy this prison – is doubt. Although it’s hard to even comprehend what exactly leads the nameless hero to start doubting – whether he actually saw something in the endless turns of the mine, or heard something coming from a pipe. One day it turns out that the cameras aren’t monitoring anything, there is no Big Brother, and this whole world is nothing more than some casual occurrence. It seems like the more the hero wanders the territory and finds new evidence of his inkling, the more we come closer to getting an underground revolt. Certain characters stand out as if to show that they are ready to further develop this classical plot. That doesn’t happen though: while everyone is still hesitant, the “macrocosm” itself gets hysterical and revengeful – for example, it stops giving out food. Thus, one of the conclusions “In the Shadows” might suggest to the audience: the totalitarian system doesn’t necessarily require revolts – it might just uproot itself and get even the most loyal of people to rebel.

Igor Savelev

The Festival Daily