Review: ‘Strange Times’

Strange is the word for this cautionary tale directed at anyone forced to care for an invalid. Tale of a young woman driven mad while looking after her dying father is overlong, morbid and contrived. Lejla (Ayan Mirkasimova) is a violinist with a good job, a loving fiance and a happy lifestyle, until her elderly father (Aladdin Abbasov), whose hobby is breeding pigeons, falls off a roof while trying to reach one of his birds. He suffers brain damage and is confined to a wheelchair. He's such a bad-tempered character that nurses soon refuse to stay with him and Lejla is forced to quit her job to care for him. Her fiance leaves for another town, effectively abandoning her to her fate.

For reasons never explained, Lejla allows the old man to keep his pigeons in the room where he spends all his time. The birds create a terrible mess and, one would think, a serious health risk. But the doctor who visits from time to time doesn’t appear to be concerned.

After many months of this, Lejla is driven to the point of madness, and audiences are likely to feel much the same way. Pic has no dramatic highs or lows, until an ending seemingly inspired by “The Birds,” though it must be said that even 34 years ago Hitchcock handled aggressive birds with more conviction. For no valid dramatic reason, the film is bookended with color sequences while the bulk of the story, a long flashback, is in black-and-white.

The actors, faced with almost impossible roles, do their best. Production values are adequate. Pic will do little to advance the cause of Azerbaijani cinema internationally.

Strange Times

Azerbaijani

Production

An Azerkinovideo Co. production. Produced by Ogtay Mirkasimov. Directed bu Hussein Mekhtiev. Screenplay, Hussein Mekhtiev, Ramiz Rovshan.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W), Amin Novruzov, Nadir Mekhtiev; editor, Guishan Salimova; music, Azer Dadashev; production design, Mais Agabekov; sound, Natasha Nurieva. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 22, 1997. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Ayan Mirkasimova, Aladdin Abbasov.
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