Friday 16 June 2017

Sydney Film Festival (21) - INSYRIATED (Phillippe Van Leeuw, Belgium,France,Lebanon). Reviewed by Barrie Pattison

Despite it’s apparently conventional film form Insyriated  accommodates a profoundly disorienting idea. Think The Desperate Hours (William Wyler, USA, 1955) in a war zone.

In the apartment of a well off Damascus family, three generations are now sheltering in what was recently a comfortable bourgeois home, with a lodger family and an Indian maid. Though traces of their normal life surround them, cell ‘phone reception is out, bomb blasts rock the building and snipers take down pedestrians in the parking lot. 

The home represents the achievements of a lifetime to mother strong-faced Hiam Abbass (Satin Rouge, The Visitor) which she refuses to abandon though her family are the building's only remaining residents. Looters on the other hand see nothing of value in her carefully tended consumer goods. Abass clings to the routine of normalcy, making tea for her father in law and berating her young daughter for washing her hair when water must be brought up from the cellar by hand. However new mother tenant Diamand Bou Abboud and her husband have stitched up a deal to leave the country with their baby. 

That’s not going to fly. From the window maid Juliette Navis sees the husband shot down and Abass orders her not to speak, knowing that any rescuers are likely to be killed. Then there’s a knocking ...

Repeatedly the hardest thing to do is nothing - for people both sides of the barricaded door. Self-contempt and reproach build among the shut-ins. Comes the desperate after dark finale and there’s the disturbing spectacle in the marksman’s red dot playing over the faces of the characters we know. 

The film develops a rare intensity in it’s scenes of crisis and moral complexities. Casting, performance and film craft are impeccable and any audience is soon confronted with the question of what they would do in the on-screen situations.

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