Paradoxically his best directed but also his least substantial pic, multihyphenate Zeki Demirkubuz’s “The Waiting Room” never provides a door for the audience to enter. Disappointing final seg of the trilogy “Tales About Darkness,” begun with “Fate” and “The Confession” (both in Cannes’ Certain Regard, 2002), pic about a blocked movie director and the various women in his life is helmed with considerable finesse but leaves an empty aftertaste. Film won director award in Istanbul’s national competition, but looks unlikely to travel far beyond scattered fest dates.
Though the movie is dedicated to the memory of Russian novelist Dostoevsky, it’s primarily a personal work by Demirkubuz, who not only plays the blocked filmmaker but also sets much of the action in his own Istanbul apartment and stars his wife, Nurhayat Kavrak, in the main female role. (This is in addition, as on the previous two pics, to producing, writing, lensing and editing the film.)
Demirkubuz is taciturn auteur Ahmet, first seen toiling at home on a screenplay based on Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” The only topic of conversation between him and his wife, Serap (Nilufer Acikalin), seems to be about their cat, who’s gone AWOL, leaving behind kittens. Transfixed by terminal lassitude, Ahmet whiles away his time channel-surfing in silence; when Serap asks him if he’s found another woman, he says yes, and she walks out on him.
Unable to find an actor to play the lead character of Raskolnikov, Ahmet ponders whether to cancel the movie; and when he tells his perky assistant, Elif (Kavrak), that he and his wife have split up, he invents a story that Serap found another man. Elif is soon sharing Ahmet’s bed.
Meanwhile, Ahmet thinks he’s finally found his leading man in a thief, Ferit (Ufuk Bayraktar), who tried to break into his apartment. But history soon repeats itself between Ahmet and Elif, and the movie looks like it’s being canceled again.
The greater technical precision that has marked Demirkubuz’s recent films reaches its apogee here in his sixth feature, with clean, well-lit compositions that give an air of exactitude even when not much is going on onscreen. Compared with “Fate” and “The Confession,” however, this one plays more like a personal jotting, or a chamber-like coda, than the concluding seg of an ambitious trilogy. Themes of human frailty, betrayal and forgiveness explored in the previous pics hardly figure here.
Still, “Waiting Room” is never boring, thanks to the performances of the small cast (especially Kavrak) revolving round the impassive central figure. As Ahmet, Demirkubuz acquits himself OK, with traces of irony behind his hangdog expression, though a professional actor would have deepened the role and even, maybe, provided a hint of what is going on in the character’s brain.