Film Review: “Inner City” (2016) ★★★★


Azerbaijani cinema is like a mysterious treasure that needs to be discovered. But once you do that, you’ll never want to lose it. Still, there was a time when cinema in the Land of Fire was well developed, but after sometime when the country bid farewell to the Soviet Union, the quality of cinema vanished with it as well. Seemingly hopeless, some of us were still in search of that little spark that can manage to bring fire to what we used to own. Ilgar Safat’s INNER CITY, luckily, is the spark we were looking for that one day we will celebrate the most beloved art called so beautifully – cinema.

Arzu is a young woman who has a long life ahead of her. She studies in the university and takes private piano lessons. Her mother Sabina is a surgeon whose daily life is filled with not only with her patients, but the well-being of her daughter as well. However, Arzu thinks otherwise, when she falls for a much older man Rafael (Firdovsi Atakisiyev), the son of her piano teacher (Elmira Shabanova). Rafael is willing to do everything possible to make Arzu happy. But how far a Karabakh veteran war can go with fulfilling her life, when he can’t even fulfill his own basic needs?

We soon learn that Rafael has psychological problems, and the symptoms close to PTSD. Sometimes he has a nervous breakdown when he can’t control himself. Arzu meets him during her piano lessons, and from that moment on, she finds it too difficult to stay apart from Rafael. Whether it is just a young blood or the true love of Arzu towards Rafael, she begins a dangerous journey where she puts everything at risk: her university degree, future plans and the relationship with her mother Sabina (Mekhriban Zeki).

There is an interesting concept in the movie written by the lead actress Tahmina Rafaella. The romance between a young woman and a much older man who, obviously, the only thing he can offer Arzu is his love. But you know, mostly the love can feed the soul and give a boost to the heart, but can’t feed an empty stomach, or stop time. The conclusion, the most satisfying one, was provided not in a way the viewer could have anticipated, which I must say, was still the most logical.

Despite a wise subject matter, the film had a few goofy scenes, only ones who will pay attention will notice. But despite that, the beautiful impression the movie leaves erases those little negative scenes surrounding the movie. The photography, cinematography by Luca Coassin and the camera work as well as directing approach was solid, which was much more than I expected.

To conclude, Ilgar Safat’s feature film gives an excellent start to the Azerbaijani Cinema that maybe now, by entering a new path, the young country can represent itself from a different angle, that I am sure the Western viewers would appreciate. So let’s hope the success won’t stop here and Mr. Safat will continue his journey until the world learns that there is cinema existing in some other part of the world as well, who many do not know about its existence.

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