El Watar: A Stylish Murder Mystery
Ahmed Salah El SaadanyArwa Gouda...
Magdy El Hawary
In 1 Cinema
Let’s first acknowledge the ambition of El Watar – here’s a film willing to toy with its formula in
interesting ways and with an artistic vision. The film is unabashedly stylish,
soaking its world in pastel colours, and feverishly boiling the characters down
to their essence. However, the movie fails to amount to anything remotely
nuanced – El Watar is like a classic
painting replica; identical in the most obvious of ways, but completely devoid
of any value.
Set up as a classical murder mystery, detective Seliem (Shaaban) is
investigating the murder of a young musician (El Saadany), who was apparently a
grand philanderer. The film then turns into a psychological thriller where
nothing should be taken at face value. Seliem’s investigation leads him to two
sisters, Maysah (Adel) and Menna (Gouda), both of whom were romantically
involved with the dead musician.
The sisters join a long list of suspects, and in the process manage to
ignite Seliem’s romantic interest. What follows is a series of discoveries
about each character’s past, filled with infidelity, physical abuse and incest.
Director El Hawary seems distrustful of his material, which may be why he
consistently emphasises the film’s gravity. El
Watar is overloaded with vacant gazes and heavy smoking, pushing the
boundaries of deadpan sobriety to its absolute extreme. The film’s oppressive
need to be taken seriously leaves no room for humour, and the characters carry
themselves with enough weight and remorse to make a holocaust film look like a
Still, there are some admirable qualities about the film.The art direction is top-notch, elegant and tasteful
without coming off as too pristine. And the film’s transitions are equally classy, using
painted imagery to flawlessly intertwine scenes or dramatically highlight key
El Watar is a surprising
choice for director El Hawary, who made a name for himself by producing blockbuster
comedies over the past decade. This film seems to be his bid to be taken as
a legitimate filmmaker, and it largely succeeds in showcasing his potential as
a director and his capability of capturing competent performances.
ambition led him to a self-aware script with a needlessly complicated ending in
the hope that he could turn it into cinematic gold; but it doesn’t work this