19 April 2006 | Red-125
Madness and sadness at a border crossing
The Syrian Bride (2004) was co-scripted and directed by Eran Riklis. The film is set in the occupied Golan Heights. (Note: I'm not an expert on the Israeli-Syrian conflict, nor on the Druze ethnic/religious community. I'll discuss the political situation shown on screen in general terms, and leave sophisticated analysis to other reviewers.)
The Druze are a minority within a minority. Most of them consider themselves Arab, but they are not truly Muslim--they have their own religion and their own rituals. Some Druze have more or less integrated themselves into Israeli society, but the family portrayed in the movie consider themselves Syrian. They demonstrate solidarity with the Syrians whom they can see and hear across the border. However, crossing the border into Syria is difficult, and returning is impossible.
While the Israelis and the Syrians soldiers eye each other with hostility across the barbed wire, Amal, a young woman--the very beautiful Hiam Abbass--is attempting to cross from the Golan Heights into Syria to marry a man she has never met. Because of the regulations, she will never see her family again. This sad and bizarre situation is played out against a backdrop of family antagonisms, bureaucratic incompetence, and petty malevolence. Amal's father Hammed--Makram Khoury--has to walk a fine line between saying goodbye to his daughter and resisting the Israeli military attempts to silence him. Hammed's other daughter, Mona--played by Khoury's real-life daughter Clara Khoury--is trapped in a loveless marriage, and is trying to simultaneously comfort her sister and achieve her own independence.
Nothing goes right, despite the efforts of a harassed U.N. official, who has seen her share of bizarre border incidents and by now has apparently accepted as commonplace the absolute madness taking place all around her.
There were a few comic elements in the movie, but I see it as a tragic film about a tragic situation. "When kings fall out, poor people tremble." The characters in this film are trapped in a toxic situation that they didn't create and can't control. As always, the wars of bullets and of words play themselves out in the lives of people who are simply trying to lead a reasonably normal and happy life.