out of Five
Running time: 91
This Turkish drama by Reis Çelik is intensely gripping, unpredictable and emotionally engaging, thanks to an intelligent script, striking cinematography and terrifically convincing performances from its two main leads.
What’s it all about?
Written and directed by Reis Çelik and set in a remote Turkish mountain village, Night of Silence is an intense account of the first night of marriage between a pretty, 14 year old bride (Dilan Aksut) and a 60-something, out-of-shape groom (Ilyas Salman), who’s just been released from life in prison for two honour killings. Having never met each other before, their arranged marriage symbolises the union of their two families putting their ancient blood feud to rest, and the incompatible couple meet properly for the first time in a one-room bridal chamber. Expectedly nervous and terrified about consummating the marriage, the young virgin bride cleverly distracts her emotionally damaged husband with endless tales and excuses until dawn draws nearer. But there’s only so much that the groom can take and eventually his own fear and patience reach a boiling point, spilling out his demons and insecurities in the lead up to the film’s shattering finale.
Terrified of the consequences of failing to prove his virility, but also endearingly uncomfortable about forcing his bride into doing something she doesn’t want to do, Ilyas Salman’s groom is an exceptionally layered and well written character and as he caters to every one of his new bride’s requests (which include shaving off his moustache there and then), his vulnerability and insecurities are achingly palpable. As the night unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that a role-reversal is going on with the seemingly timid teen bride growing more confident and gradually showing hints of ulterior motives, sending the film into truly intense territory. However, the Turkish-to-English subtitles (although suitably translated) aren’t very well synced, which can be a little off-putting at times.
With the exception of the 15-minute introduction and the groom’s short and surreal dream sequence, the entirety of Night of Silence takes place in the small and confined room and this claustrophobic setting is perfect for Reis Çelik’s powerful and unpredictable script to unfold in. The cinematography is hauntingly beautiful (particularly as the bride sits alone on the bed waiting to meet her groom) and both Ilyas Salman and Dilan Aksut are fantastic in their challenging roles. Finally, the film’s unexpected finale is intelligently directed and chillingly ambiguous.
With its tense and brilliantly unpredictable script and two effortlessly strong performances from Ilyas Salman and Dilan Aksut, Night of Silence (Lal Gece) makes for a chilling and absorbing watch. Recommended.
Night Of Silence (Lal Gece) (PG)