Thursday, April 19, 2007

Helio Flat

Semi spoiler warning: If you're one of the 3 people who read these posts, then it's better if you have either seen the movie or do not intend on seeing it. Because in all likelihood you won't know what the heck I'm going on about and while it may not be ruined completely upon reading this, there is a chance that it can be ruined while watching the movie.

On another note, this isn't much of a review, just ranting and stating things that are very obvious in the movie.

Fi She2et Masr El Gedeeda (In the Heliopolis Flat) is a very simple story about 2 people falling in love coming from entirely different worlds. They are surrounded by very kind people who are helpful and do not have malicious intent. The simple story line is certainly not the movie’s finest point, for if the story itself is examined it is displaced from reality and is closer to fantasy.

It does have some realistic elements but it would suffice to say that reality is not its strongest point. Its strongest point, however is the bag of symbols that are presented throughout the story’s simple plot that revolve around life’s most outstanding quality, love. Though I hate narrating story plots, it’s is necessary that I do so for the purpose of pointing out symbols. Nagaat (Ghada Adel) is a woman from El Menya in search of her teacher and friend Tahany who used to live in a flat in heliopolis. Instead she finds Yehia (Khaled Abou El Naga) who lives in that flat instead of Tahany. Tahany has apparently vanished without warning and nobody knows whether she is alive or dead. The movie revolves around finding out if she’s alive and well and where she lives.

Yehia gets daily visits from a divorcee called Dalia and enjoys the casual pleasures of physical intimacy. With a racing bike and a great job as a stock broker he seems to have it all made. Nagaat keeps missing her train to take her back to Menya, as though fate is intervening (in bizarre manners every time). She meets a taxi driver who is called Eid Milaad and he takes her to a place to stay in with a woman called 7ayaat. And so the story goes, taking us through various circumstances that bring Yehya and Nouga together.

Tahany is obviously a symbol for love that has vanished for a while and whether love is dead or alive in this world we do not know. There are always people who are searching for it and those that believe it’s dead. There are signs of its existence but they’re all very shady signs that are open to interpretation, just like Tahany. The crux of the movie is evidently in the line spoken by Shafeeq (the incredible Youssef Dawood) when he says “She Exists!!!” an obvious symbol to the fact that love exists.

Yehia and Nougat are representatives of most people, either those who have lost hope in love or those desperately in search for true love, in both cases they’re confused and what they believe about the matter is irrelevant since eventually love conquers them. In Yehia’s life the divorcee, Dalia, represents the transactional side of a relationship, she’s there because it is pleasurable to have physical contact with Yehia, and when she realizes she can have children, after having thought she was barren, she decides that she wants to marry Yehia for a child rather than love. In the reality of the world we live in, there is no real love of the romantic kind she argues.

Nagaat knocks on Yehia’s door three times and every time is symbolic of how she has invaded his life. The first time she knocks she arrives so much later than Dalia leaves the apartment, the next time she comes just as Dalia is leaving, the time after that, she arrives much before Dalia leaves. She is evidently invading the space and control Dalia has over Yehia, he is being invaded by love that kicks out any transaction.

Yehia’s job as a stock broker also plays a symbolic role. Even though his sole role is transactions he displays his judgment and refuses to sell some stock until the stock closes. He is afraid that he made a bad judgement by trusting his gut and is in a state of confusion. At the same time when he realizes that it was a correct decision and that the stock prices have gone up, he starts to realize his feelings for Nagaat. Love has triumphed over soulless transactions.

Interestingly enough Nagaat’s taxi driver Eid Milad has has two daughters fajr and shorook (dawn and sunrise) and is a symbol for second chances and rebirth. He is kind, supportive and caring. He hooks her up with 7ayaat, whose literal translation is life. 7ayaat is a survivor and she has an evident crush on Eid Milaad. She doesn’t dare make a move, she just wants to live on, and the part that just wants to survive does not wish to take a risk.

All in all the film is full of symbolism that conveys the message of love and chance in the movie. Modes of transport and even the elevator in the building are symbols whose actions go analogously with the events that take place. The movie has been masterfully made and there is not one bad scene except when they’re playing snooker incompetently. The movie takes us to a fantasy world through symbolic helpful characters that conspire to make life work. It seems that all those working in the movie shared the vision and belief in the making of this movie and that is why the amount of details in each shot is taken care of. Even Yehia’s wounded lip remained wounded till the end.

The director of photography has done a great job bringing to us a certain fantastical mood. The sound has been gratifying as well specially with the sounds of a man singing in an echoey appartment. From an artistic point of view the movie is beautiful, in its scenes and symbols (although it may be one too many symbols at the cost of reality) but whether you believe in the message or not is entirely up to you. After all, we haven't had a good look at Tahany, and one can still wonder if she’s real, even if she does exist.


Scarr said...

Yes the wounded lip. I remarked on that too. Unusually good continuity.

Good review.

Anonymous said...

well, i overlooked ur warning, i didn't see it and i have no clue if i'll get to see it before my term or not. anyways, thanks for the "review".

the one thing i kinda dislike about the movie (as far as u have explained anyways) is that it ended up too fictional; people should get a bigger dose of reality and how things happen in real life.. and by that i don't just mean the wounded lip :)

Wael Eskandar said...

Thanks Amnesiac.

Inso - How odd that you want reality yet claim to want fairy tales as well.

Btw, I like how you said, 'the one thing I dislike about the movie'.. made me feel you've been :)

Anonymous said...

i sketch my life as a fairytale, ur a gemini, u should relate to that. but i need a slap of reality and i was hoping i'd get that from movies that claim to be realistic; however, most movies promote the fairytale concept because they want ppl to get out of theatres all hopefull and crap :)

well, i have vivid imagination, i read ur "narration", i saw the trailer and the clip, i could fill in the blanks :) most egyptian movies have even less details than what envision.