Adam and Eve (Still)
Review by Jon Waterman
That famous story goes that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. This film supposes that they stole from the Tree of Life as well and the two are now immortal. They are destined to live forever, watching the world change around them. Their boredom starts to overtake them and they begin toying with mortal lives just to pass the time. However, more than anything, they’re looking for a way to die, a way to escape this unspeakable hell called life.
This movie was pretty interesting. It’s a unique experiment in form and substance. There is very little dialogue, especially in the beginning. The silence is off-putting at first, but then becomes acceptable. As soon as characters do begin to talk (at least ten minutes in), it’s quite jarring and a little awkward. The mix of silence and not takes some getting used to, if it happens at all. My preference would be to avoid all dialogue by the main characters. It’s okay if the actual citizens speak, because they have to. I would think that Adam and Eve would have gotten to a point within their relationship and understanding of one another that they wouldn’t need words. They should be beyond that. Combine these awkward gaps with the lingering shots/sequences and the blurry nature of time, and you get a movie that’s a little bit too experimental to be considered an effective narrative. On the same note, it’s also a little too narrative to be considered an effective experimental film.
Since it’s telling the story of the first man and woman, you might expect a little nudity. After all, they entered the world without any clothes on, and they most likely feel most comfortable that way still. There are many scenes that invoke nakedness and some that include it without the proper motivation. No matter how it comes about, it becomes nothing, just like in “The Dreamers.”
Basically, the film takes too long to develop into anything interesting. We quickly understand that eternal life is boring and miserable. At least they get to stay young and fresh (unlike in “Death Becomes Her”). I would have liked to see God used as a character and see how he deals with these two. It’s tough to get involved in the movie, when it takes a half hour to form a recognizable narrative thread.
The cinematography looks fantastic. There are great, vibrant pastel colors mixed in with the murky backdrops of the city, which makes for an interesting landscape. The set pieces are very detailed and even the costumes showcase the boredom they are faced with. It’s quite creative and provides plenty of eye candy. But this mix of experimental and narrative forms gives director Iván Avila Dueñas an air of pretentiousness. The movie was good, but it could have been great.
Shouf Shouf Habibi!
Review by Jon Waterman
The film follows an atypical Moroccan family trying to adjust to the very different society in Holland. The parents struggle to enforce their cultural heritage while their children struggle to break from the tradition. Faced with subtle racism, Abdullah tries to decide whether to live the stereotypical life of crime or try to go straight. Leila wants to find her own husband, even if that means disgracing the family to do so. Can the family stick together and find their place?
The movie is supposed to be a comedy. It does contain a few slightly humorous moments, but it relies too heavily on telegraphed jokes and satirical social circumstances. I’m sure if you are from Morocco or Holland, there’s a greater chance for you to find most of this stuff hilarious. There’s little to relate to for someone in my position, and too much of the comedy rests on conventional techniques that are losing their flavor. We needed more unexpected jokes and circumstances.
In fact, the story itself is rather typical. We’ve all seen it before. The kids rebel against the traditions and cultures the parents attempt to impose on them. Individuality versus Custom: It’s as simple as that. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it every time. There is nothing new to add. It would be difficult to make a successful drama out of it these days. A comedy seems nearly impossible.
The characters don’t experience much of a progression throughout the film. They don’t flesh out past the two dimensions. However, the relationships between them are good. They’re basic as well, but the outright stubbornness acts as a perfect catalyst. In “Bend It Like Beckham” the struggle took no new directions and quickly got boring and repetitive. Here, there are three different children that have to fight with their overbearing parents and with each other. Abdullah also has to prove himself to his friends. There are various angles and aspects of life covered to keep your interest. In fact, the most interesting part of the film was Ab’s interactions with his friends. It also proved to be the most comical.
Writer/director Albert Ter Heerdt has done a good job with this film, although I doubt it will touch the American audience in the same vein as it would abroad. The acting is pretty good, but not outstanding. The film is not bad, but it just wasn’t as exciting or fun or as new as it could have been. Essentially this is just another typical formulaic piece of work. Maybe the sequel (“Shouf Shouf Barakka!”) will be better.