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Cold as Marble (Mermer Soyugu)

A ruthless father is released from prison only to torment his adult son's life, in this quietly disturbing psychosexual drama from Azerbaijan - from the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


A young Artist (Elskan Askerova) struggles with his unsuccessful career. Instead of fulfilling his largest ambition (of becoming a painter), he draws dead people on marble stones for the local cemetery. His romantic life isn’t particularly successful either: he is in an extramarital relationship with a young woman, who happens to work in a museum where far more prosperous artists showcase their work. A real rub on the face, even if unintentional. To top it all up, his extremely callous, domineering and even sadistic Father (Gurba Ismayilov) is released from prison and returns to live with his son. The old man’s crime: killing his very own wife (the Artist’s mother).

The Artist is a vulnerable and sensitive young man. His partner is beautiful and they indeed enjoy a steamy sex life, however he never comes across as a happy and fulfilled person. He has a facial disfigurement caused by an abnormally large, non-functional eye (which indeed belongs to the actor). His hair is long and messy (which makes the Father suspect that he is a “faggot”). His words are sparse. At times, he vocalises the contempt that he feels for his father: “you are the one who is a killer”. Most of the time, however, it is his fragile masculinity that prevails. It’s the Father who is in charge: he is physically and psychologically more powerful than his son, and he’s never afraid to showcase his strength. The poor Artist mostly abide. But for how long?

The Father is thoroughly repulsive character. He is as cold as the marble stones at the cemetery, as the film title suggests. He blunts reminds a woman visiting a dead relative: “You shouldn’t feel grief. You too will end up there soon”. He does not regret killing his former partner, the actual motive and the method of crime never being revealed. “Some people don’t deserve to live. In war, you receive a medal for murdering your enemy”, he tells his son. Despite his callousness, he exercises his religion, but that’s just for financial gain. And he does not seek any sort of redemption. He carries on with his cruel ways undaunted,

Cold Marble is a slow film. One that manages to elicit very powerful emotions without resorting to predictable gimmicks. The twists are very disquieting, yet subtle. The director Rustamov, who also co-wrote the screenplay, achieves such impactful results without ever depicting physical violence, exploitative sex or any type of commotion whatsover. In fact, some of the most important developments are neither explained nor portrayed, leaving viewers to concoct their own solutions, and to visualise the crude events in their own heads

The ending is very shocking and effective. The director makes the story come full circle with a couple of narrative master strokes, throwing viewers into philosophical chaos and emotional turmoil. A real punch in the face.

Cold as Marble just premiered at the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. It is part of the event’s Main Competition.

By Victor Fraga - 25-11-2022

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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