In his short film Islands, new independent director Mohammed Salah explores loneliness and connection in a series of casually linked scenes. The film was screened July 9 in Maadi’s Al-Kotob Khan Bookshop – it was, to say the least, über-artsy. Not to waste too much time on the details, basically there is little there in terms of a comprehensible plot, but a lot of elusive symbolism and depressing music.
You have been warned. That said, many moments in the movie were moving. A scene of a paranoid woman being followed on the street put me right into her world. Later in the film, the same woman breaks down crying more realistically than I have seen in most major films, which nearly brought me to tears.
The scene of a lonely elderly woman sobbing while pouring milk in her coffee was compelling and terrifying. Another story-line of a couple connected over the internet but unable to communicate was sweet and funny.
On the other hand, the scene of a man beating his wife could have been compelling commentary on domestic violence if only it wasn’t accompanied by almost cartoon-like sound effects. The overacted relationship dragged throughout the rest of the movie.
In fact, this was a recurrent theme. Salah captured a poignant moment, but instead of leaving it alone, harped on it again and again to a nauseating degree. Also, the way he linked the different plot lines together seemed gimmicky.
The movie went on for too long, and much of the music seemed more appropriate for a movie about a concentration camp than a film about isolation. Still, the portrayal of loneliness in a shocking and gruesome manner was interesting, if not overdone at times.
The ‘too much’ element can said for the entire movie. What started out as extremely vivid quickly became over-the-top, and what started out as sad became miserable and depressing. I felt I was being hammered into the ground. Unable to sustain complete despair for almost an hour, I eventually lost interest.
For all of its less enjoyable moments, the film did capture some powerful moments. And I look forward to future, better, films by Mohammed Salah.