The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - <i>THE GIRL IN THE WOODS</i> | The Movie Waffler

Shorts Showcase - THE GIRL IN THE WOODS

A group of friends stumble upon a message from a missing friend.

Review by Benjamin Poole

‘Find me!’
Mert’s (Deniz Aslim) phone buzzes, dragging him from sleep and into a different sort of dream. Two words, ‘find me’, purporting to be from his friend Ali. Soon after, Ali’s fiancé, a distraught Ceren (Gizem Aybike Sahin) calls: Ali is nowhere to be found, and has been missing for days. ‘Something abnormal is going on’, Ceren worries, and thus begins the delicate/deadly spider’s web of Tofiq Rzayev’s dazzling Turkish short, The Girl in the Woods.
Like a poem, the concentrated form of The Girl in the Woods is potent and expressive; the humble surroundings in which the characters (Mert, Ceren and other pal, Cem -Mehmet Samer) reside are unmistakably suggestive of a repressive poverty, which Mert, with his textbooks and scholastic aspirations, is desirous to escape. He should be studying, but he is instead persuaded by Ceren to find Ali, and his pursuit leads him from the oppressive focus of his home (all shallow lighting, unforgiving tight angles, and seething cigarette smoke) to the wide open expanses of the forests, the camera allowed here to fully breathe and take in wide-angle shots of the unbound woods. These woods are Mediterranean, though; stark, but unforgiving, with as much death evident in the dried out undergrowth as there is life burgeoning in the thick, olive foliage above. And then, wandering through the wilderness, Mert meets the girl…
Except, she is more than that. Astonishingly pulchritudinous, the actress (Cevahir Casgir) seems slightly older than Mert, more womanly to his boyishness, carrying with her a confidence in her manifest sexuality and attraction, a chthonic endowment that immediately hooks Mert, who is otherwise trapped within a world of sweat and cigarettes and social obligations. ‘Bad things can happen outside this wood’, the girl tells him. Bad things, indeed, in this strange horror relentlessly suffused with threat... 
Reputedly produced by Rzayev for $500, The Girl in the Woods is a triumph of talent, film making and independent production. Exquisitely shot, the film uses the wide open canvas of the woods to create a devastating loneliness, and using storytelling threads as lean and taut as proteinaceous silk, the natural and believable cast weave their tale, tying themselves closer and closer to a fate as inevitable as it is tragic. Like the strange ramifications of the woodlands it depicts, there seems to be an elemental alchemy at work in The Girl in the Woods too, with its use of nature to create atmosphere and feeling; the blowing of wind through leaves, the crunch of gorse, birds suddenly flocking, the sort of sound and imagery that can’t be bought by budget alone, but which here achieve a sort of cinematic magic.
The Girl in the Woods: Find it.