Monday, August 29, 2016

The Cruel Sea

Bas ya bahar; drama, Kuwait, 1972; D: Khalid Al Siddiq, S: Mohammed Al-Mansour, Saad Al-Faraj, Hayat Al-Fahad, Amal Bakr

Kuwait before the oil industry. Moussaed is in love with Nura, but since he is unemployed, he has no money to propose her. In order to pay for her dowry, he decides to go on a ship to dive for pearls, even despite major opposition from his father, who once wanted to find a pearl himself, but was disabled after getting scarred by a shark. Once in the open sea, the crew dive in deep waters for pearls. However, Nura's father enagages her for a rich man, while Moussaed's hand gets stuck between two rocks, and he thus dies in the sea.

The first feature length film in the history of cinema of Kuwait, Khalid Al Siddiq's "The Cruel Sea" is a sad contemplation about the fragile state of life by depicting a timeless "Icarus" tale about a lad who wants to escape from his miserable fate by risking for something greater, but precisely when he is the closest to his goal, he is also the closest to his death. Al Siddiq directs the film with a raw, callow style reminiscent of Italian neorealism in order to authentically depict the life, culture and mentality of the people (for instance, the people gather at the coast and dip a cat in the water for a few seconds, and after it meows, they conclude that the ships will all return safely), even using some more daring and unusual methods, like the fish-eye wide angle lens at a couple of scenes, or flashbacks that effectively conjure up the emotions of the father, who was crippled when he tried to find a pearl in the sea for his wife, and thus does not want his child to suffer the same fate. The film suffers from a very slow pace, especially in the overlong 10-minute wedding sequence, which depletes the concentration of the viewers, but still has some timeless wisdom about people who cannot escape their limitations, no matter how much they try, perfectly embodied in the wide angle scene where the father is looking at the massive sea in the background, a symbol for the leitmotive of eternal nature-fate and man's futility and insignifiance in trying to change it. A minimalistic, spiritual film, especially elegant in the sequences of the ship in the middle of the sea, showing good character development between the skipper and Moussaed.


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