Lutfu Emre Cicek
Lutfu Emre Cicek
Derya Alabora as Naciye
Esin Harvey as Bengi
Gorkem Mertsoz as Bertran
The funny thing is, Naciye is a home invasion film – from a very different perspective. And that viewpoint is Naciye’s. She is determined to keep things as they always have been in her family home, and we see in Alabora’s performance (supported by the flashback work of Cakin) that she feels completely justified in her actions.
It’s pronounced NAH-jee-uh and it’s a Turkish film, enjoying its world premiere at the 2015 Screamfest Film Festival. And frankly, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for any chance you might have to view it – whether it’s sometime down the line on DVD/VOD or playing in a festival near you.
Bengi (Esin Harvey) is about eight months pregnant, and having sort of a tough go at it. So her baby daddy (or is he?) Bertran (Gorkem Mertsoz) decides to rent a house on an island off the coast of Turkey – where they can escape the city and relax for the last couple of months of the pregnancy. Problem is, someone’s already living there, and that someone is Naciye (Derya Alabora). Naciye grew up and grew old in this house, and the fact that she no longer has the legal right to occupy the home – well, let’s just say that that teensy-eensy formality won’t stop her, and she’ll do whatever she must (and I do meanwhatever) to remain in her home.
In the overall atmosphere and feel – not in content – I was reminded of last year’s big winner at Screamfest; The House of the End of Times. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re both foreign films with famous middle-aged female actors, representing their respective home countries. Or that it takes place in a big, mysterious house. Like The House of the End of Times, Naciye can be painfully slow at times, but also genuinely and appetizingly – surprising. It takes you to places you wouldn’t expect. Where The House of the End of Times is far more somber and supernatural, Naciyesurrounds itself with a more everyday set-up – and it has a more prominently featured sense of humor – at least for certain bits of the film’s running time.
The couple’s initial search and evaluation of the house upon arrival – drags considerably. By the director’s own admission (we chatted before and after the screening), people in his own circle complained about how long this sequence was. Admittedly, it’s important to support Bengi’s frightened proclamations of “There’s someone living in this house!” by showing the cleanliness and personal items all about the home, but this detailed revelation was just far too long. I will say, however, that when the dominoes do begin their delicious downfall, you will quickly forget these long stretches where nothing happens. And you know what? You’ll also forgive them, ‘cause they get you to the good stuff. On the other hand, such extended sequences like the lingering and horrific shots of Bengi in the climactic courtyard chase – as well as the very beautiful early shot of the cat-infested street outside the home – look like works of art. So some of the extra-long sequences work, while others have you aching for some action.
Channeling a little “Julia Cotton” (Clare Higgins in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser), Derya Alabora is a marvel as our title character. We get Naciye’s creepy life history – and thus the history of the house – through several well placed, beautifully realized flashbacks. The young actress portraying the teenaged Naciye (Ilgin Cakin) is equally as engaging as her middle-aged counterpart. But Alabora makes you fall in love with Naciye and even though Naciye’s a certified maniac (this spoils nothing – you find this out within the first 5 minutes what the character’s capable of), she still garners loads of sympathy.
The funny thing is, Naciye is a home invasion film – from a very different perspective. And that viewpoint is Naciye’s. She is determined to keep things as they always have been in her family home, and we see in Alabora’s performance (supported by the flashback work of Cakin) that she feels completely justified in her actions. We may not understand all that is going on inside Naciye’s head, but Alabora makes us care… for a crazed and obsessed killer. Wow.
As the struggling couple, Esin Harvey and Gorkem Mertsoz are given lots of relationship baggage to haul around, and it’s a fun treat to know as you’re watching their heated arguments, that they’re a real-life couple as well. Per my brief conversation with the two actors, they revealed that they left any of their own issues behind and as director Cicek said, “they became colleagues” on their first feature film together.
Harvey mentioned that in their life together, they rarely argue, but… “There were moments, sometime after we shot the movie…there was a bit of Bertran coming out” – referencing their real-life spats.
The bottom line is that many actual couples who appear opposite one another on-screen, don’t have a chemistry when in front of the camera. Not the case here. Their best moment together (and one of the spookiest moments of the film overall) had the couple arguing about several issues which had recently come to light. It’s a well-acted moment from the couple, but there’s much more going on in the background.
The film’s location – on an island off the coast of Turkey – belongs to a friend of the director’s and the film was written around this home’s dark charm and obviously, it’s availability. It’s a beautiful seaside house with lovely views, four stories of character-heavy interiors and a lush and vast garden next to the structure. Cicek mentioned that the beauty of the place during the day, was no match for the darkness and mystery of the abode come nightfall. The cast and crew would scurry away at the end of a shooting day – not wanting to be in the house at night.
The film’s score by Zafer Aslan is fantastic. It’s borderline distracting – just because it’s so good and so noticeable. Per director Cicek, there was a time when he anticipated having no score at all. But when others on his team recommended he use music, he wisely changed his mind. It’s jarring with lots of Turkish instruments. Per Cicek, he wanted it to sound “foreign”, introducing world audiences to “Turkish” sounds. In addition to instruments, there is the recurring sound of a skipping turntable. It creates an unusual and interesting tension throughout.
And the sound design of the picture is remarkable. I’m assuming the presence of so many felines in the home’s neighborhood simply came with the territory when using this unique location. We can also assume that Cicek simply took advantage of the constant exterior “meowing”. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the cats which added authenticity as well as eeriness to the film’s atmosphere. Wherever the characters were in the house, it was never missed that they were surrounded on every side by something – the ocean water breaking outside, the cats (and some dogs) wandering aimlessly in the courtyard, the horse-drawn carriage clicking on the street – or Naciye pounding on the windows and doors. In this film, sound design was king.
With one extended shot, the ending is pure gold. This drawn-out camera movement allows you plenty of time to register what’s happening – and despite so many abhorrent actions from Naciye throughout the film, there’s still a great deal of sympathy for the character in these final moments. A perfect and proper way to wrap things up. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And this will perhaps be a random and far-fetched comparison for many of my readers, but there was something very striking to me – a strange similarity in some of the Naciye relationships, to Daria Nicolodi’s character in Dario Argento’s Phenomena (aka Creepers). When you view the film, see if you recognize the same thing. As for Cicek, he acknowledges the French horror film Insideas an inspiration for Naciye.
Sadly, the aforementioned pacing issues keep Naciye from achieving a perfect score. As I walked out of the theatre, however, I had one word floating about in my head: “enamored”. And indeed, that is what I feel as I pen the review. Quite simply, I think I’m in love.
If it’s any indicator of my enjoyment of Naciye – take a look at the photo posted with the article. That’s me in the middle with a chunk of the cast and crew following the film’s screening at Screamfest. Hey, I’m a die-hard horror fan first, a critic second.