In Between Dying (Səpələnmiş ölümlər arasında)
Ever since Mel Gibson was arrested for drunk driving in 2006, seizing the opportunity to tell the police officer that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” (sigh), has Danny Glover given up on the idea of Lethal Weapon 5? Even if he did, he has been keeping busy with peace activism and executive producing dreamlike, fascinatingly peculiar films, such as Azerbaijan’s In Between Dying, premiering in competition at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.
Orkhan Iskandarli is Davud, a young man who commits a rather subdued murder before fleeing Baku. He’s then pursued through the beautifully bleak Azerbaijani countryside, where he encounters a number of locals in various dire straits. Davud rides his scrappy little scooter across the landscape, having vaguely surreal exchanges with those he meets, as they deal with an abusive spouse, a forced marriage and rabies, amongst other issues.
The surrealism is aided by the dialogue and the (almost) overused voiceovers. The poetically dramatic announcements probably lose a little something in translation, and the poetry veers dangerously close to pretentiousness. It’s borderline nonsensical, and yet it works, taking on a hypnotic quality that accentuates the overall mood of the film.
At times challenging, though ultimately rewarding, director Hilal Baydarov’s meandering film unfolds almost exclusively in languid, inert wide shots. The rare occasions when the camera moves closer are about the only opportunity to take in the protagonist’s features in any detail.
Characters die and/or collapse without warning, while other characters watch without much concern. The only “character” to really acknowledge the oddity of this is a passing horse, who at least sniffs at the woman who crumpled to the ground at its hooves.
Quietly beguiling, In Between Dying is a rather curious cinematic experience, but it’s one that is striking and unique in its own inconspicuous way.
In Between Dying (Səpələnmiş ölümlər arasında) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for In Between Dying (Səpələnmiş ölümlər arasında) here: