Directed by Erdem Tepegoz.

 Starring Numan Acar, Vedat Erincin, Ahmet Melih Yilmaz.

 Science-Fiction, Turkey, 94 minutes.


Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival ’21. Showing from the 25th to 28th February.


Set in an unknown location in an unknown time, director Erdem Tepegoz’s IN THE SHADOWS tells the tale of The Miner, played by Numan Acar. A tall formidable figure, this unnamed protagonist toils away both underground and above in the rundown coal factory that is partly powered by other miners running in giant sized hamster wheels. Overlooking them all is a vast video security system which calls everyone in for regular health check-ups which if do not come up to standard, causes the workers to be taken away unseen to somewhere unknown.


The Miner soon uncovers a strange object underground and comes into contact with a seeping, black substance which hinders his health, a fact he hides from his unknown superiors so he can keep working. This lifestyle of working to survive soon comes under question from The Miner as he begins to question his malevolent controllers and unexplainable voices soon start to echo through the many pipes and ducts that snake through the vast rundown factory and the dilapidated shanty like structure around it that the miners call home.


Hailing from Turkey it is not hard to see the allegory at play here. The trope of one lone figure waking up to the corruption of a fascistic political system to rebel against it is one that has been to put to use in many other countries for many years and no doubt will continue to do so for many more. It is one that has also been melded into science-fiction many times before with differing levels of allegory and metaphor, whether it is the class struggle at the heart of METROPOLIS or Winston Smith’s self-realisation in 1984. Those two examples alone can be spotted as influences here in the slowly unwinding story.


Aesthetically there are also a couple of major influences in the shape of Terry Gilliam and Andrei Tarkovsky. The machinery and architecture could have been lifted from both BRAZIL and the dystopian ruined future of TWELVE MONKEYS while the rust infested, run down environment of the mine feels like a not-so-subtle homage to Tarkovsky’s STALKER. The run down, precarious cable cars and ramshackle train carriages rattling along the buckled tracks ferrying the emaciated, exhausted workers to their daily grind while an unexplainable temporal and spatial anomaly lurks on the periphery threatening to take The Miner on a perilous journey of self-discovery.


Fans of those films could find much to admire in this otherwise slim offering. The story here is thin on the ground, providing little else to chew on or to get emotionally invested in. The monotonous nature soon begins to stretch the 90-minute running time out to breaking point while the opportunity to ignite it fully by exploring the more fantastical elements at play are left nearly completely unexplored. Performances are strong, especially from Numan Acar, familiar to Western audiences from roles in the likes of HOMELAND, while the style of the film holds the attention, helped in no small part by its stunning central location. While it may engage on one level the fact that it fails to stir the heart cannot be denied.


Iain MacLeod.


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