SXSW Film Festival Movie Review: INFLAME

Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the psychological drama INFLAME by writer/director Ceylan Ozgun Ozcelik. To best describe the story I will use my own plot summary:

"A news editor has nightmares that begin to convince her that her parents might have died under political circumstances that have been covered up." 

I have to say first and foremost: I did not know what I was walking into when I decided to review this feature. Was it horror, suspense, or some hybrid of both? The beginning led me to believe it was going to be a dramatic social satire of the media and the power they hold over perception, but as it went along it turned more paranoid drama than any other genre. 

Why, one might ask, do I feel the need to qualify the genre? My reasoning comes down to the pacing of the film, which might be slower than some people expect. There is a good deal of time given to the power the media has over how people look at world events as this is not only the lead character's career, but is also entwined with her lack of memories about her parent's death. As she begins to suspect that history was covered up by the news corporations, she becomes less trusting of those around her and begins to isolate. 

Given that this is based around our lead's loss of memory, the majority of the heavy lifting falls onto her shoulds. Algi Eke did a great job of portraying Hasret's journey of self-discovery, whether she was interacting with her friends or just by herself ruminating. In fact, contrasting the early long takes of her talking with people as she walked through the news offices or arguing politics with her friends to the moment where it is just her, in a room alone, shows off the strength of her performance. 

As mentioned above, the cinematography pulled some neat tricks when it came to long takes versus the more intimate moments. Honestly, the overall production values were quite high on this from the more obvious camera shots to the subtle appearance of singe marks on the apartment walls.  Much like Hasret's memories, much begins to sneak up on the viewer as the story advances. 

That being said, this is a foreign film that uses an event in local history that I knew nothing about. Not being aware of the riot that was being reference ahead of time made it difficult for me to connect with the events. This was not helped any by the fact that the majority of the information about the riot was provided to the viewer right before the end credits began to roll. At that point, it made me reevaluate my opinion and like this piece more, but I would have definitely felt an emotional connection better if I had a better grasp on the events that formed this picture's backbone. 

All in all, a dynamite performance matched with good production values helps to reinforce the paranoia at play. The lack of context hampered my emotional connection to the subject matter, but it has also raised awareness by providing just enough information to get me to look up the historical background. Fans of paranoid thrillers with a political slant like UNDER THE SHADOW (2016) or, to a lesser extent, ones about how the media twists public perception like WAG THE DOG (1997) might be interested in this picture. 

Nighty Nightmares,
The Creeping Craig