The ghosts of a secret policeman’s misdeeds come back to haunt him in “Iz,” an assured feature bow by Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu that should travel well on the festival circuit and attract attention from specialist buyers, especially in Europe. Film’s acute visual style and quality production values put this several notches above most Turkish fare.
Main character Kemal (Aytac Arman) is a plainclothes cop who’s bored with his job and coasting toward retirement. One day he overhears a police call on the radio and goes along to break the monotony. The corpse is of an average musician who’s committed suicide — and in the process obliterated his face.
Gradually Kemal becomes obsessed with discovering what the man looked like, an increasingly nightmarish quest that leads him to use his ring of informers, hook up with the dead man’s prostitute daughter and finally try to leave the country. Ending, though inconclusive, features a surprise revelation that explains Kemal’s obsession with the dead man’s looks.
Though the pic deliberately keeps its time setting obscure, the implication is that story takes place during Turkey’s period of military rule in the early ‘ 80s, with an omnipresent atmosphere of fear and police control. Though several Turkish movies have explored the interior journeys of artists and political prisoners, “Iz” cleverly takes the submerged guilt of the oppressor himself and boomerangs it back on him.
Result is a kind of reverse of Kafka’s “The Trial,” with the cop gradually entangled in the very snares he used to lay for others. Though the pic would benefit from some tightening in its central section, helmer Ustaoglu, who trained as an architect, keeps a generally tight grip on proceedings, with precision camera work, well-judged lighting and clean editing. Performances are fine, and post-production, done in Germany, is good.
Turkish title translates as anything from “track” to “trace” or “evidence,” so producers are sticking with the original for the time being.