Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hassan & Morkos

Very heavy on the symbols, this much is true… it's what makes this movie drift so far from reality, yet in effect reflecting it. The movie had one of two choices, to elegantly move over items of our daily lives pointing to them in a suave, elegant manner, or bring down the hammer over the points we see every day and blow them up to reflect what's hidden in our society. It chose the latter, probably because of how difficult it is to do the former. In effect, the movie is a not at all elegant, insisting on delivering messages through pounding dramatic effect and repetition, mostly to the masses who prefer their movie messages delivered in this manner.

Abstractly though, the scenes when stripped of their need to reflect reality drive home very directly a message that has tried to be sincere. Its conclusion is delivered through the movie's final scene. It says yes, we do not know each other, yes there are problems, yes there is even hatred and yes we are not one and the same. We're different and we're in chaos and that will not be denied. The lines that separate us have been drawn but worse, the lines prevent us from knowing one another any further. We become our clan, and we're just a bundle of blind resentment.

We're in this battle we've found ourselves in with no hope of a mass salvation. Our masses are doomed and are in chaos due to prejudices and bad history. There is only room for personal and individual salvation. Like the six entwined together in what looks like an average road from hell in the movie's final scene, we cannot fight to change all that's around us, but we need to hang on to each other to get through it. Our salvation is through personal knowledge and through love of one another.

We are not one, but we can intertwine and we can go through the roads of hell together. Amidst this impersonal chaos we can still have each other. There's some elements of human love that transcend religion, for religion should only lead us to those elements. We can survive the violence around us knowing what know about each other.

This was expressed in the final scene that was built up by the movie. It was heavy on allegory and physically distant from reality in a seemingly surreal fantastical kind of way. (Although the choice of Alexandria where such violence took place can defend the aspect of reality) In the remainder of the movie, Hassan we Morkos reflects a hidden prejudice that has become stealthily inherent in our community. They are prejudices based on superficial labels and nothing can be as superficial as the labels presented in the movie. We have a non practicing Christian and beardless and ignorant Sheikh.

These are people under a thin cover. The cover is simply a label, a tag and unfortunately this has reflected that no one cares about anything except that tag. Some of us are labeled one way or another through our names and that serves as all the basis needed for prejudices and discrimination. Some of us with neutral names can really see the discrimination as soon as our labels are discovered. Even Hassan and Morkos, or rather their underlying characters, who epitomize religion, end up judging one another superficially. They warm up to each other based on religion and are discriminated against based on how they appear.

Hassan we Morkos is a funny comedy that has not fully grown into its potential black. Not all points were discussed and there were references to hidden opinions from both sides that rang so true that you couldn't help but laugh. The absurdity of accusations of one party to another was comical to see on screen and yet behind the comedy there was so much truth.

The whole movie of course is based on an improbable plan set forth by the government and while the actual plan of the government was fictitious, the consequences were not. The government has helped to orchestrate the atmosphere for this kind of tension in reality, and perhaps it has in fact hidden who we are from each other. At the end of the day we're left with the ugly situation expressed in the usual cheesy crowd chants but reflecting a reality that's impossible to ignore nonetheless.

The scenes that took place in the south of Egypt were comical to say the least, not reflecting at all the prejudices that exist down there. To talk about these dogmatic prejudices and discriminations would leave no room for comedy as people’s lives are destroyed because of their religion. The movie had no choice but to skip these bitter stories. Over here in the big city, we Cairenes are quick to say, there’s nothing of that sort, there’s no prejudice and there’s no hatred. In Cairo, we’re distant from all that happens elsewhere.

Whether this movie can move any prejudice an inch is not something for me to say or that can even be foretold, although, like everything else, it will just pass as entertainment. For we love our stars on the silver screen, Omar and Adel, but we don't usually extend that love to our loud or obnoxious neighbors. That is why things may fade out as does the music with the ending credits. In real life there's no Yasser Abdel Rahman's inspirational score to move our hearts. There is no camera on us to judge us and there are no lovable stars to love. We're left with one another and that may not be enough.


We need the familiar, our usual stars to love, our usual music and lighting and most of all our same kind. The only way out is through personal knowledge as the movie suggests and the only way towards this is by allowing ourselves to trust. We need to open the door we've locked ourselves in and allow love to salvage us from the utter chaos we've found ourselves in.

There's no camera to watch us but we forget that a label was never a window to the soul. I suppose it's only fair to say that there are so many who have actually moved past all these prejudices that were forced throughout our present day culture. There are some who have fought the dogma of tribalism with the logic of love. There are some whose human bonds are even stronger than that of blood, and transcend the labels that lead us to those sought after pure human qualities. So let us walk in their footsteps and put aside our slogans and hypocrisy and see each other as humans with a choice. As long as we have no choice about our prejudices, we'll always be enslaved.

1 comment:

Nagy Fanous said...

Nice critic. I highly doubt Egyptians...as much on the muslim as on the christian side...are ready to just throw away their past and start anew, only focusing on knowing each other better and loving each other. But when you think about it, all the suffering of the past is gone, in the past. There is no point for a priest to say that the muslims are not letting the christians do anything nor the muslims say that the christians monopolise the money. Even though this may be true, it will not solve the conflict but rather worsen it as we see in the movie right after Adel Imam gives his speech and his car explodes