Streaming Releases: Inflame (2017) - Reviewed

We have an innate ability to suppress negative memories, a defense mechanism, if you will. It protects our psychological well-being. Some choose to suppress it actively, while others have no choice but to suppress it, opening the door to the possibility of the suppressed rising to the surface unwillingly and out of necessity. Writer-director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik uses this notion in her latest thriller Kaygi (Inflame). 

The film opens with a group of friends commenting on the role that social media plays in modern Turkish society. For reference, the Turkish government heavily regulates social media as a means to control the flow of information. And yet, Ms. Özçelik uses this scene to convey that social media’s implications are the same world over, despite heavy regulation. 

To that end, Hasret (Algi Eke), who happens to be a documentary editor for the government news channel, dismisses her friends’ claims regarding social media. She has also been struggling at work, missing deadlines. Her editor, who likes to use the word ‘okey-dokey,’ changes her assignment to do editorials and voice over work for government speeches, which is not her specialty. 

As she makes the transition to her new job, she begins to have waking nightmares about a past event, but she doesn’t know fully what’s going on her. She confides in her friend, Mehemet (Özgür Çevik) who implores her to seek assistance. Her friend, Olcay (Selen Uçer) also encourages her to seek help as her dreams become more and more vivid, driving towards the ultimate conclusion.

Ms. Özçelik’s script is taught with psychological terror. More than once I caught myself asking if what Hasret experienced was real or imagined. To answer my question fully would be to give the story away, which I won’t do. Suffice it to say, the tension, which builds with the opening scene I mentioned above, doesn’t let go until the very end of the film, when the truth is revealed. The tension is as much a product of the cast’s acting as much as it is the editing and camera work. Radek Ladczuk’s framing of even the tensest moments has an intimacy I haven’t seen in previous psychological thrillers, giving us a better insight into Hasret’s well-being. Ahmet Can Cakirca’s editing is tight, giving us moments to breathe, but not so much that we forget Hasret’s journey. 

Nominated for Best First Feature at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival and winning the Special Jury prize at Ankara International Film Festival as well as winning the SXSW Gamechanger Award, Ms. Özçelik’s Inflame is a testament to her strength as a director and writer. In Turkish with English subtitles, and now streaming on Amazon, Inflame will leave you thinking about your life and questioning your reality.

Inflame is available on Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray.

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-Ben Cahlamer