“They are all the same except for their names”
Writer/director Tofiq Rzayev‘s latest short Bir Uyku Vakti [In a Time for Sleep] appears to have a lot to say beneath its melodramatic plot. I’m just not sure exactly what it is. This could be a “lost in translation” case, but I found it difficult to fully grasp the underlying themes besides an obvious sense of girl power in its characters freeing themselves from the domineeringly despicable man in their lives. I almost want to say that the result of what Leyla (Goknur Danishik) and the unknown woman who assists her (Elif Barut) accomplish is to show the former that she is in fact a lesbian, but such an epiphany is ultimately a strange effect for the violent events precipitating her transformation (for lack of a better term).
It begins with an argument. The day marks the one-month anniversary for Leyla and Arda (co-writer Mehmet Fatih Güven), but he could care less. In fact, he’d rather throw out the lush meal she has prepared and send her packing than acknowledge the occasion as anything more than another day of many to be experienced and forgotten in equal measure. His lack of compassion is shown to be a common occurrence as Leyla breaks down in tears and anger, seething with a declaration that she’d kill him if given the chance. Since Arda is most definitely an asshole, he of course dismisses her rage by taking out his gun and giving it to her. Daring Leyla to pull the trigger, he can’t fathom she would. He’s wrong.
This is where the histrionics begin. Leyla checks out from the emotional weight of what’s happened to the point of actually opening the door when a knock is heard. The truth of why Arda acted as he did is revealed, the stranger entering introduced as someone he’s harmed as well. Leyla is hysterical, confused, and scared, but the newcomer is calm and collected. She has a plan and they both orchestrate it to perfection as smiles of freedom replace all tearful fright. But why is this stranger helping? How bad was Arda to force these two women to want to erase him from existence? How strong is the sense of safety Barut’s mystery woman supplies Leyla that the murderess can become relaxed and stable so soon after?
I don’t know. I also don’t know if the final moments occur since their parting is reversed before being reinstated via overlapping of frames. Do they continue on separate paths forward or do they journey together as one? I think letting Leyla breathe a sigh of relief was enough to make In a Time for Sleep a resonate tale—not quite condoning her actions, but allowing them to lie as self-defense and escape. The quiet moments and glances between the women muddle this, however. The thought that they may be falling for each other isn’t bad; it’s just unearned. What happens is too intense to be pushed aside so easily. To have love blossom out of violence despite the romantic, soap opera music and imagery feels extremely false.