An oblique rumination on the psychological and emotional wreckage wrought by years of war in Beirut, Falling from Earth is much symbolic gesturing in the dark. That director Chadi Zeneddine makes no concession to traditional narrative is hardly a failing, but his refusal to contextualize his evocative imagery except in the slimmest of ways (i.e. by denoting that his film’s four “chapters” are set in different decades) dampens their ability to reverberate on an individual or collective scale. The influence of and yearning for home, the past, love, and a voice (both personal and political) are topics that freely commingle throughout these tales, which involve an old man named Youseff who collects photographs for display in his bombed-out apartment, a young girl who asks Santa for a video camera, a security guard who begins writing on the door of a public bathroom stall, and a woman remembering a former romance. Zeneddine’s visual acumen allows for a stirring, tangible sense of the city and the sorrow, loneliness, and longing of its inhabitants, which is conveyed most powerfully through measured shots of the rubble-strewn urban landscape framed by windows or explosion-created holes in walls. And in the sight of a young girl using a camera to discover the ugly reality lurking underneath a gentle façade, the director offers up a poignant summation of cinema’s potential power. In these moments, his self-conscious cinematography has a mystical Tarkovsky-esque portentousness, though it lacks a spiritual and moral density. Blood dripping down a bathroom wall, a body being excavated from the soil, and a young boy donning angel wings are some of the many abstract sights intended to convey truths about the metropolis. Yet by unrelentingly smothering the story’s vignettes in endless magical realist touches and obtuse narration, Zeneddine, seeking to craft a haunting tone poem about his beloved Beirut’s explosion-wracked torment, sparks thought but no feeling, reducing his film to a text that wants to be parsed rather than emotionally experienced.
- 62 min
- Chadi Zineddine
- Chadi Zineddine
- Rafik Ali Ahmad, Carmen Lebbos, Ammar Shalak, Yamen Sukkarieh, Naya Salemeh
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