The Waiting Room, 2004

During the panel discussion on Turkish cinema, Zeki Demirkubuz cited Friedrich Nietzsche’s (paraphrased) statement that the more a person understands the world around him, the more isolated he becomes. This sentiment also seems to form the creative ideal for the fictional director, Ahmet (played by Demirkubuz himself) in The Waiting Room, the final installment of the Tales of Darkness trilogy. In a sense, the film is also a paradigm for Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant (and to a lesser degree, Climates in the casting of his real-life wife as his fictionally estranged one) in its exploration of the paradoxical role of the filmmaker as both a neutral spectator and an integrally rooted actor in the inspiration for – as well as the creation of – his art. Representing Demirkubuz’s cinema at its most personal, but also at its most abstract, the film is a slice of life portrait of an independent filmmaker struggling to pull together his long harbored ambition of adapting Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment into film (an idea not unlike one Demirkubuz envisions undertaking himself, having previously expressed his desire to make an adaptation of the novel, but not yet having found an actor who coincides with his vision to play the lead role and move forward with the project) against the everyday (and largely intentional) distractions within his personal life. A humorous early encounter with a trapped young burglar, Ferit (Ufuk Bayraktar) who had sprained his ankle while climbing a security wall in an attempt to break into Ahmed’s apartment complex – and who is then forced to rely on his intended victim’s cooperation to allow him to “escape”, hobbling, through the front door – introduces the theme of moral resignation as complicity, a figurative “innocence”, that runs through the film. Acquiescing to his wife’s demands that he admit to a nonexistent affair (perhaps in order to assuage her own conscience for deciding to leave him), the newly separated (and consequently, emotionally isolated) Ahmed decides to restart the project with his assistant, Serap (Nilüfer Açikalin) after becoming increasingly convinced that Ferit would be ideal in the role of Raskolnikov. But as new emotional attachments and complications again begin to surface in Ahmed’s life – including the appearance of Serap’s lover, Kerem (Serder Orçin), who confronts him on the suspicion that Serap has confused his aloofness as a sign of seduction – real life once again reasserts itself into his (proposed) fiction and upends the dynamics of his untenable creative process. Ironically, while the film suggests alignment with Abbas Kiarostami’s cinema (most notably, in the Koker trilogy) in its observations of interpenetrating realities, the fictional director’s creative process implies its antithesis. Rather than a search for beauty by immersing in the mundane reality of everyday life, Ahmed seeks to disengage from the quotidian, to withdraw from its distractions, in order to create fiction (an affectation that is also reflected in his disinterest in finding his cat after her kittens have adopted a box on his balcony as their new home). However, it is this elusiveness of creative isolation – the impossibility of truly inhabiting another artist’s work – that would prove to be his epiphany as well, a realization that the information of reality resides in the essence of fiction.

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