With the organisers extending the event,I decided after seeing the terrific Skin (2020-also reviewed) I decided to look at what other titles were making their UK debut at the Leeds International Film Festival. Intrigued by the outline on the festival site,and finding it to have no reviews here,I decided to light a cigar.
View on the film:
Note:Review contains some plot details.
Penetrating the opening credits with evocative Freudian images, co-writer/(with Marc Syrigas) director Kamir Ainouz makes a startling debut, rolled on a raw semi-autobiographical atmosphere. Closely working with 8 Women (2002-also reviewed) cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie, Ainouz fills the opening scene with Selma's face covering the screen like a rising sun,as waves wash over her whilst lying alone in the Algerian surf.
Casting a misty narration of Selma quoting Gilbert Sinoue's novel L'Egyptienne over the opening,Ainouz subtly trims away the chatter from Selma's parents about her finding a partner, and would-be boyfriends displaying their charms, leaving behind stark,bare close-ups of Selma's face.
Staying close to Selma in her coming of age and avoiding displays of skin that would trip into the exploited, Ainouz pulls the soundtrack away for a sultry atmosphere, held on Ainouz's growing self-confidence at opening up her own desires.
Looking into the abyss of a pitch-black bedroom, Ainouz holds the camera to tight close-ups as Selma gets assaulted by a partner she trusted, with the betrayal and trauma from the abuse being cast across the anguish face of Selma.
Separating the film and Salma between France and a Algeria in the 1990's where Islamist rebel groups were gaining a increased footing in the Civil War,Selma's mention of a passage in the opening Gilbert Sinoue quote about a woman's reaction, separated between revolt and submission, to the man who she is about to be intimate with, is brilliantly expanded into the divided reaction Selma and her mum have to men in their lives.
Made aware by her dad about how she should have a partner (but staying away from openly mentioning forced marriage) the screenplay by Ainouz and Syrigas brilliantly explores Selma's growth in self-confidence as she strikes out from the mix feelings of submission and revolution towards dominating would-be partners that surrounds her,which becomes reflected in Selma's mum brushing away at dismissive glances as she travels to her dream job.
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