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Other Languages Reviews

Capernaum(2018)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Zain, Capernaum and its visuals will not stop haunting you. A cinematic gem !!

Capernaum opens with a court scene, where Zain says to the Judge, “I want to sue my parents”. When the judge asks the reason he says, “For bringing me into the world”. Capernaum starts with these uncompromisingly honest lines from a 12 year old Lebanese boy. The story then begins to tell us about Zain and why he wanted to sue his parents.

The court room scenes and Zain’s past that made him decide to sue his parents are intertwined in the narrative. Zain’s family is struggling to meet both ends and his parents are often negligent towards the kids. Zain is always fed up with the strange ways of his parents and helps his siblings in whatever way he could. We can also see him helping his parents in producing illegal drugs and in selling beverages on the street. Zain’s wretched life is portrayed with some heart-felt visuals.

The relationship between Zain and Sahar, his favorite of the siblings, was a moving episode in the story. When he found out that Sahar had her menstruation for the first time, he advises her not to disclose it to anyone as he was afraid that his parents will marry her off. When he learned that the parents are going to marry her off to Azad, he makes plan to escape with her to start a new life. It was all in vain as his cruel parents marry her off to Azad for two chickens amidst protests from the kids. A dejected Zain runs away from his parents to another place.

After roaming around for a job, Zain was taken in by a Lady named Rahil, an Ethiopian who was staying with a fake ID along with her little kid Yonas, to her house. Zain had to play with Yonas and make him happy while Rahil was at work. But Zain was pushed into more misery when Rahil gets arrested for her illegal migrant status. He manages to feed Yonas for a few days, but then he was forced to go his parents’ way and produce illegal drugs and sell it to make a living. The passage of the growing relationship between the two boys and Zain taking care of the the little Yonas like a parent is really moving. When adults around him fails him, Zain acts like an adult, showing unbelievable maturity in his behaviour. He is very tender at his heart, but toughened by the bitter experiences in his life. His survival instincts and hope is what keeps him going.

In two of the most haunting scenes towards the end of the movie, Zain blasts his parents for their negligence and irresponsibility. In the first instance, when his mother tells him that she is pregnant and they will name the kid Sahar if it is a girl in memory of his late sister, Zain shouts at her for bringing another life into their miseries. Second event was inside the court, when the judge ask what did he want his parents to do, Zain replies, “I don’t want them to give birth to any more children”. Even the judge sits without any answers when a 12 year old shows the common sense which his parents are lacking.

Zain Al Rafeea as Zain gave one of those astonishing performances on screen. We cared for him and we cried for him even when he choked back his tears. That’s where director Nadine Labaki was so successful. The actor-director moulded the kid to perform at a level that everything he did seemed to be so realistic. Similarly, Getting reactions out of a small kid in Yonas also would have been a great challenge but that part also is done with so much perfection. They are aided really well by the supporting actors.

The movie talks to us through visuals rather than resorting to melodrama. Labaki shows us a bunch of cornered lives in Lebanon; huge population suffering the epidemic of poverty, migrants struggling to make a living, and most importantly, children who are thrown into these miseries from their birth. The original title Capharnaum refers to a fishing village which was built during the time of Hasmoneans. But the meaning of the word Capharnaum is “disorderly accumulation of objects”, quite rightly justifying the title of the movie.

Capernaum is a cenematic gem as it speaks for the lakhs of kids who are denied their basic rights with an astonishing lead performance from Zain Al Rafeea. The realistic visuals and Zain will haunt us for a long time even after finishing the movie!

Category: Other Languages

By sreenathjvm

I am a healthcare professional. An ardent movie lover. Writing about movies forever has been an obsession.

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