The Cleaner (Short)
For the third time in 2015, I have been offered up a sublime short film experience from a specific filmmaker whom I had never heard of the year before. His name is Tofiq Rzayev, and he is from Azerbaijan. Part of the reason I am grateful for filmmaker requests for reviews is that I will be afforded opportunities like this, to discover a cinematic voice that I would never have been familiar with otherwise, and for the third time this year, Rzayev has won me over completely with his intelligent and emotional storytelling in a short setting, and the best part has been it has been seen in three very different films. Hopefully, I will get to see that played out in a feature in the future.
In “The Cleaner,” we begin with a man in bed. His name is Fatih (Mehmet Fatih Güven, who co-wrote the script with Rzayev), and he is a cleaner. The woman with whom he has just spent time with (Alsen Buse Aydin) gives him crap about his job, but she has reason to- it is her birthday today, and he forgot. He goes into a reasoning for why he doesn’t wish people “happy birthday,” and honestly, it’s hard to dispute his logic. Rather than spend more time with her, though, he heads to work. As you might be able to figure out, he is not the sort of cleaner she thinks he his- it’s a euphemism for being a hit man, and the next thing we see is Fatih and his boss (Erhan Sancar) are waxing philosophical about the pros and cons of killing women. The boss is against it, but Fatih doesn’t have a problem with it, although that is going to be put to the test when he takes the bag off of the head of his latest mark, and discovers the woman he just spent the morning with.
“The Cleaner” has a very different tone than “Aftermath,” a family drama, and “The Girl in the Woods,” which was more of a horror tale. Here, we see a spin on the crime drama and love story that is difficult to predict at the outset, but is beautifully written, directed and acted all around. It’s got some humor, some tension and some tender romantic moments and ends on a wonderful grace note that shows how a character can change, even in 10 minutes of a short film. All of Rzayev’s films have been terrific entries in my moviewatching year, but I think “The Cleaner” shot to the top of that list effortlessly, which is exactly how it seems to have been made.