Monday, September 2, 2013

The Attack

One of the most interesting things about Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack is the retrospection. The film is based on a novel by Yasmina Khadra and the many of the flashbacks are more novelistic than cinematic. They're not merely visuals amplifying a story, but independent vignettes, part and parcel of the back and forth between appearance and reality that constitutes the theme. Nothing is what it appears to be in the film which deals with a Palestinian born Israeli doctor (Ali Suliman) who discovers that his wife is a terrorist. Throughout the first part of the movie Amin, the doctor, is slowly and painfully disabused of his preconceptions about Siham (Reymond Amsalem), his beautiful wife. These early scenes, which are suspenseful could be compared to Vertigo in which Scottie (James Stewart) seeks to find an apparition, a woman who it turns out never existed. Then just as the protagonist and by proxy the viewer are ready to accept one truth, another asserts itself. Siham is, despite everything she has done to herself and others, what she always was, a devoted and loving wife. Does the film owe its provenance to Hitchcock or to filmmakers like Pontecorvo who used a cinema verite style to convey a political message? In the case of The Attack, the esthetic and the political aren’t mutually exclusive. The Attack uses the unraveling of the suspense genre in the service of its message—which is one of moral ambiguity. There's no right or wrong. Both Amin and Siham are deluded into thinking that political reality does or does not define them. Their tragedy—and it’s something they both learn too late to do anything about—is that the personal and the political are inextricably intertwined.

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