Verge is an enigmatic, austere film from new Turkish directorial duo Ayhan Salar and Erkan Tahhuşoğlu. A young Turkish woman, Fikret, spends a great deal of time gazing out of the window of her family home, watching cars pass across the highway outside whilst waiting for her husband Halil’s return. At one point, Halil departs on a long haul delivery and doesn’t return. This sets Verge up as something of a mystery, but to describe it as that would be slightly misleading.
Though the search for Halil makes for the dramatic weight of the film’s first half, Salar and Tahhuşoğlu withholding nearly all information and denying the audience much of the necessary context; midway through, Verge folds in on itself, collapsing the enigma and switching focus. In the place of an adult Fikret, pained sick with worry about her husband’s whereabouts, we’re introduced to a younger, carefree one, visiting the family home she will later inhabit. Through scenes involving Fikret and her grandparents, we see the role of the home as a storage vault for personal and generational histories, and understand how the meaning of a space can change over time as people pass through.
Taking place almost entirely within the confines of this family home, Verge is the definition of a chamber piece and might be expected to be somewhat theatrical as a result. Instead, it’s a deeply cinematic work, with truly remarkable cinematography from Salar who shot the film in addition to co-directing. Gliding his camera around the interior spaces, he finds inventive ways to frame the same set of four walls in close and medium shot; using gradual, incredibly graceful camera movements and beautiful, natural light sources to retain visual interest despite the film’s slowness.
When the camera roams outside, he switches to stunning wide shots, capturing the surrounding urban landscapes in the orange hues of the golden hour, and emphasising Fikret’s isolation through the use of contrasting scale. Though a tremendously low key film - with no heightened emotions, dramatic gestures or grandiose directorial displays - Salar and Tahhuşoğlu, largely through this measured, very careful cinematographic style, are able to imbue a large amount of feeling into these sequenced images.
Linking past and present, Verge becomes something of a ghost story, Fikret haunted by the absent spectre of Halil, losing herself to her memories and essentially disappearing herself. Verge is a real slow burn and much of the dramatic potential is deeply subdued by the directors’ fixation on restraint. For first time filmmakers, Ayhan Salar and Erkan Tahhuşoğlu have a large amount of confidence in their ability to show and not tell, and though this confidence is not misplaced, in future films, they may have to work with more overtly dramatic material, and take more risks. Some will find the lack of a climatic point frustrating, but Verge carries a lot of power in the small gestures it makes and the mood it works so hard to establish.
Name: Matt Turner
"Verge" by Ayhan Salar, Erkan Tahhuşoğlu (Turkey, Germany)
Karlovy Vary 2016 - East of the West