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Her Man: Feminine Artfulness
Ayten Amin’s directorial debut is based on Ahdaf Soueif’s short story, Her Man. The story revolves around Zeina, an illiterate and co-dependent woman who stands helpless as her husband, Sobhy decides to take a second and much younger wife.
With contempt, she has to live with her rival under the same roof. Soon, she becomes overwhelmed by feelings of jealousy and oppression. Finding a way out of her situation is very hard; given her financial dependency on her husband: leaving him is certainly out of the question.
Zeina may be lacking in resources, yet she has a great deal of underestimated womanly guile. Planning to rid herself of the injustice inflicted upon her, Zeina sleeps with her husband’s new wife, leaving a hickey on her chest, and thus creates the illusion that his new wife has been cheating on him.
Her Man remains true to the cultural message in Ahdaf Soueif’s short story. The leading lady, Zeina is portrayed as a threefold character, giving the audience space to contemplate her shocking actions.
Amin translates perfectly the adequate background for the story into a film. Within the context of the less privileged Egyptians, marriage is the sole prospect for girls. In this essence, Zeina’s act is her defence against someone that is threatening her all.
Aside from the sex scene between Sobhy’s two wives, the film focuses on sexuality as part of the social background. Married off just as they hit puberty, girls are introduced to sexuality as an integral part of marriage. The two wives spend their day waiting for their husband and preparing a meal for him; pleasing him is their main concern.
It is impressive to know that Her Man is Ayten Amin’s first project; all the artistic elements seem to fall right in place. The music and the cinematography are very expressive of the controversial conflict within the story. Amin’s script is very realistic and is complemented by natural performances.
Her Man is recommended as a powerful story of counteraction and victimisation. Women’s submission can be great, yet their defiance can be a lot greater.
They would try anything as if they had no fear of failure. They weren’t afraid of screwing up because the process and the act of creation were the important parts; if the product ended up sucking it was no big deal because they’d already be at work on the next piece. At least that’s the vibe that the documentary gives off. It also helps that the modern day, grown-up No Wavers seem every bit as cool as they did back then.
Titled from a popular term which describes the early transfer of a young offender from a juvenile detention facility to an adult penitentiary, Starred Up is by no means an easy watch. However, as much as it is difficult to digest at times, there is a certain poetic beauty behind its seemingly violent and destructive quality that makes it difficult to look away from.
Shot within the walls of an abandoned Belfast prison, the film opens with troubled nineteen-year-old Eric Love (O’Connell) undergoing an embarrassing admittance process, involving a complete body strip down, as he’s transferred into an adult reformatory.
Immediately marked as a “single cell, high risk” type detainee, it doesn’t take long for Eric – whose frequent and violent outbursts got him relocated there in the first place – to stir up trouble and make enemies both with fellow inmates and security guards.
After a mistaken attack on another inmate lands the young delinquent into the disciplinary hands of the law, Eric is soon approached – and rescued – by the in-house therapist, Oliver Braumer (Friend), who believes that he can help the young man rehabilitate.
Unfortunately, getting to the root of Eric’s problems - and getting him to open up - is no easy task and Oliver - together with the other rehabilitating convicts - often find themselves the targets of both verbal and physical abuse. To top it off, Eric has to find a way to learn to share the walls of his new confinements with his estranged father, Nev (Mendelsohn), who is currently serving a life-sentence in the same prison.
Penned by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Asser – a former prison psychotherapist whose own experience with the British penal-system adds a hefty dose of authenticity and realism to the film – Starred Up, told through a series of wordless and violent expositions, is fuelled with gripping intensity which is hard to shake off. Relying on action, rather than words, the uniqueness – and the heart - of the story lies with the father-son narrative, whose bonding difficulties are depicted through the oppressiveness of life in prison.
Contributing to the movie’s relentless and uncompromising approach to despair and violence, O’Connell – mostly known for his role in the British TV-series Skins and recently seen as the lead in Angelina Jolie’s war-drama Unbroken – is an absolute standout; feral and unpredictable, his performance carries the film, while Mendelsohn is equally superb as a man whose persona and motives are seemingly hard to read.
Powerful, emotional but never too sentimental, Starred Up is a true British-prison drama classic whose quietly yielding power and passion for storytelling will leave you feeling captivated and moved.