1 September 2008 | gradyharp
Insha'Allah: The Durability of a Father/Son Relationship
LE GRAND VOYAGE is a gentle miracle of a film, a work made more profound because of its understated script by writer/director Ismaël Ferroukhi who allows the natural scenery of this 'road trip' story and the sophisticated acting of the stars Nicolas Cazalé and Mohamed Majd to carry the emotional impact of the film. Ferroukhi's vision is very capably enhanced by the cinematography of Katell Djian (a sensitive mixture of travelogue vistas of horizons and tightly photographed duets between characters) and the musical score by Fowzi Guerdjou who manages to maintain some beautiful themes throughout the film while paying homage to the many local musical variations from the numerous countries the film surveys.
Reda (Nicolas Cazalé) lives with his Muslim family in Southern France, a young student with a Western girlfriend who does not seem to be following the religious direction of his heritage. His elderly father (Mohamed Majd) has decided his time has come to make his Hadj to Mecca, and being unable to drive, requests the reluctant Reda to forsake his personal needs to drive him to his ultimate religious obligation. The two set out in a fragile automobile to travel through France, into Italy, and on through Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Turkey to Saudi Arabia. Along the trip Reda pleads with his father to visit some of the interesting sights, but his father remains focused on the purpose of the journey and Reda is irritably left to struggle with his father's demands. On their pilgrimage they encounter an old woman (Ghina Ognianova) who attaches herself to the two men and must eventually be deserted by Reda, a Turkish man Mustapha (Jacky Nercessian) who promises to guide the father/son duo but instead brings about a schism by getting Reda drunk in a bar and disappearing, and countless border patrol guards and custom agents who delay their progress for various reasons. Tensions between father and son mount: Reda cannot understand the importance of this pilgrimage so fraught with trials and mishaps, and the father cannot comprehend Reda's insensitivity to the father's religious beliefs and needs. At last they reach Mecca where they are surrounded by hoards of pilgrims from all around the world and the sensation of trip's significance is overwhelming to Reda. The manner in which the story comes to a close is touching and rich with meaning. It has taken a religious pilgrimage to restore the gap between youth and old age, between son and father, and between defiance and acceptance of religious values.
The visual impact of this film is extraordinary - all the more so because it feels as though the camera just 'happens' to catch the beauty of the many stopping points along the way without the need to enhance them with special effects. Nicolas Cazalé is a superb actor (be sure to see his most recent and currently showing film 'The Grocer's Son') and it is his carefully nuanced role that brings the magic to this film. Another fine film from The Film Movement, this is a tender story brilliantly told. Highly recommended.