Director: Serkan Aktaş
Writer: Serkan Aktaş
Cast: Onur Soyal
Running time: 11mins
Movies from artists from low-income backgrounds, opposition groups hit by censorship, or individuals in nations subjected to international sanctions need a platform. That’s why Indy Film Library’s Saturday Matinees has returned for a third season.
Over six weeks, the latest series of Saturday Matinees has showcased work from places where monetary and legal constraints have prevented free communication, and financial crises have made the production of films extremely difficult.
The final film in our free-to-view programme, Mirrorty, comes from Serkan Aktaş, a filmmaker based in Istanbul. A slow-burning supernatural horror, the film provides a cautionary tale of what happens when we ignore the plight of those around us, in favour of sustaining a comfortable narcissistic bubble.
Onur Soyal plays Adam, a feckless slob, who’s only willing to prize his eyes from the banalities of prime-time television for the sake of examining the contours of his face in the mirror. The actor does an excellent job of straddling both comedy and fear in his performance – delivering a duality which one moment has us smirking at the square-eyed Adam being so absorbed with a dancing dog on television that he pours Coca-Cola all over his upholstery but in an instant also seeing us fall silent and watch fearfully as we anticipate someone or something appearing over his shoulder.
The story sees the dog show briefly interrupted by an emergency broadcast. People have been going missing in the area. Adam uses the break as an opportunity to mop up half a bottle of Coke that is now dribbling onto the floor – and so the warning is lost on him. He has also rejected two phone calls from his mother, because he’s just too busy to talk.
After spending the night alone, Adam falls asleep on his couch – exhausted by hours of such high-octane entertainment. But he is awoken by a strange tapping sound…
A woman – someone who appeared on the television’s safety warning – is standing behind him. Well, almost. She is standing behind his reflection. It’s a nifty piece of cinematography from DOP Feyzullah Aslan, when it has time to sink in – having initially been let down a little bit by the set-dressing. In the darkened room, the tall, thick-framed mirror simply resembles a door to a hallway, with the woman seemingly miming as though there were glass in front of her for some kind of practical joke. Considering the comedic tone of the opening, and no full establishing shot of the mirror itself, it therefore takes a moment to realise what is going on.
Once it does become clear that reflections aren’t what they seem, though, the film becomes increasingly frustrating in all of the best ways. We know, having paid attention to the news, that Adam is in danger, and the longer he spends staring into the mirror, the more likely it is something bad will happen. At the same time, the silent, screaming people he keeps glimpsing in the glass add to that feeling – but Adam can’t resist gawping at his own reflection at every opportunity.
It’s infuriating, and intriguing; the longer it goes on for, the more difficult it becomes to claim “I wouldn’t behave like this” – the usual reaction to the choices of a horror film victim. Our entire society prizes appearance – whatever our station. If we don’t turn up to work in ‘presentable fashion’, we could lose our jobs, however good we are at the actual work. We are told that without looking a certain way, we will struggle to attract friends and lovers, and spend life alone. If we were suddenly informed that we could never look at our reflection again, is that something we’d be able to live with? Even if it wasn’t motivated by the fears of what other people think, could we suppress our own vanity so completely that we wouldn’t even reflexively look in the mirror?
More likely, like Adam, many people would try to invent reasons for why everything’s actually fine. Those voiceless people probably disappeared, sure, but acknowledging that in any meaningful sense compromises a comfortable state of self-obsession which we have adopted as an unchallengeable norm.
Mirrorty will be available to view for free in full from 09:00 UK time on Saturday the 5th of August, until the end of the weekend, via our Saturday Matinees theatre page.
As the film is still trying to gain access to other festivals, the page is password protected. Use the code IFLMATINEE23 to access the film.
Viewers can also vote to score the film out of five stars – the Saturday Matinee which receives the highest score will be declared the winner of the third season.