Is ‘Muwatin wa Mukhbir wa Harami’ New Adaptation of ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being’?
Egyptian Filmmaker Dawoud Abdel Sayyed's film Muwaten wa Mukhber wa Harami (Citizen, Detective and Thief) may invite comparisons with Philp Kaufman's 1987 adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, according to Al Ahram Weekly.
“Periods of political turmoil, the weekly said, tend to invite a great deal of soul searching. In Eastern Europe Russia's 1968 invasion of Prague provoked much questioning of cultural and social values, providing, eventually, the background for Kundera's novel. Similarly, the 1967 Arab defeat resulted in many hand-wringing cultural projects, including the cinematic ventures of Abdel Sayyed.”
In Abdel Sayyed's film novelist Selim Seif Eddin (played by Khaled Abul Naga), whose name means "unbroken sword of religion," the citizen of the title, maintains a physically satisfying relationship with Madiha (played by Rula Mahmoud). It is, however, only when he embarks on a rather more spiritual liaison with Hayat (played by Hind Sabri) -- whose name means life -- that he is able to complete his novel. Hayat, in the meantime, is the mistress of the thief of the title (played by pop singer Shaaban Abdel Rehim), introduced to him by Fathi (played by Salah Abdullah), the detective.
Muwatin wa Mukhbir wa Harami opens with the detective, who knows the minutest details of all the characters' lives, and the thief speaking a common language, one the citizen fails to understand. Two decades later, though, when the film ends, communication is perfectly plausible: it is a transformation that lies at the heart of the film.
The central plot revolves around Hayat's theft of a manuscript of one of Selim Seif Eddin's novel. She hands it over to Sherif Al Margoushi, the thief, who has a passion for the more moralistic strain of detective novels. "How come your main character Safiya has an affair with two men yet ends the novel without being paralyzed or going blind?" he asks Seif.
In the ensuing contretemps the thief burns the novel, and the novelist pokes him in the eye. Yet the result of this inflicting of mutual harm is that the writer subsequently achieves popularity with works that take on board the thief's moralism, and the thief receives a far superior artificial eye -- incidentally from Geneva, the city in which Kundera's characters take refuge -- to replace his own damaged organ.
This conflict between the novelist and the thief occupies most of the film's 135-minutes, and is eventually resolved when the son of the thief and the daughter of novelist-citizen, both products of their fathers' marriage to the other's one time mistress, fall in love and get married, a complicated piece of miscegenation referred to in the song that closes the film -- cats and mice get married, and have children together – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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