Scars and Bars


Though grounded in the hubbub of city life, the films of Turkish director Zeki Demirkubuz unfold on a more metaphysical plane populated by the living dead and the dearly departed. Cramped urbanity offers lost souls anonymity but denies privacy, and Demirkubuz rations the glimmers of hope. If his obsession with the cosmic friction of quotidian life recalls Kieslowski, his absurdist, often diabolical tendencies suggest Beckettian farce as realized by the Coen brothers.

This retro features all five of Demirkubuz’s films, each a minor gem. Fate (2001) transposes Camus’s The Stranger to Istanbul, where Musa, an office drone, sleepwalks through life’s tragedies and joys. This contemporary Meursault is his own white-noise machine; his toneless voice demarcates a no-man’s-land of disaffection. More dispiriting, the poisoned marriage at the heart of Confession (2001) withers in excruciating slo-mo. Every detail—including a driblet of snot—feels amplified tenfold. Having served a jail sentence for political dissension, Demirkubuz, 39, is understandably fixated on imprisonment. While Innocence (1997) and The Third Page (1999) trap their protagonists in the no-exit clutches of a femme fatale, Block C (1994) portrays high-rise life as an inescapable moonscape filled with the heavy breathing of its alien(ated) inhabitants. When not fucking away the anomie, these non-beings find solace in television, whose ceaseless glow is the closest thing they have to a god.