Sunday, October 19, 2014

CURFEW (1994) is Never To Be Broken

Rashid Masharawi's study of a family in Gaza living through 24 hours of a curfew imposed by the IDF is, in one sense, reminiscent of Sartre's final message in NO EXIT, that Hell is other people.  Certainly, the way that the film maker utilizes space and how the majority of footage was filmed inside the house makes it easy to imagine this as a stage play.  But unlike Sartre, Hell is not simply other people, it is people made miserable by a hellish form of oppression that is as phantasmic and non-negotiable as any devil.
What the director does here with the basic construct of a normal Palestinian family is develop a cross-section of society itself, including adolescents, teens, adult, and elder figures, interacting in a fashion that brings to the surface the most extreme examples of behavior and reaction.
The sound and film quality are also notably analog, since the film was made in 1994.  This provides a certain texture to the film digital has yet to achieve.  The lighting in this film is extremely artistic, emphasizing light from candles and lanterns in a fashion that creates atmosphere and a level of tension that seems influenced by German Expressionism.
The fact, as I write this 20 years after its release, Gaza has been reduced to rubble makes this film seem more painful.  The director himself was born in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza but has made clear his goal is to avoid politics in his films, saying "I am willing to leave filming the Intifada to CNN”.
Perhaps one of the most symbolic references to the conflict is staged in a scene between the young boy Radar and his older brother Akram.  The two siblings are in their bedroom, fighting over the position of a small oil lamp they are using to read.  As they pull back and forth, they loose control of the lamp and it shatters on top of a rug, exploding into flames all over the surface that burn bright before being snuffed out by a large blanket that covers the whole space.  This pulling back and forth is analogous to the conflict and is far more meaningful than merely featuring staged scenes of conflict in the midst of an Intifada.
In many ways, the way the family is explored and represented is reminiscent of Yasujirō Ozu's work. I am particularly reminded of FLOATING WEEDS here.  In that film, the same type of cross-section and interactions between family members under pressure to bear the disintegration of traditional family structures and norms are explored with sensitivity.

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