Insyriated (Philippe Van Leeuw, 2017)
The winner of the Audience Award at Berlinale 2017 is gripping from start to finish. The sound of a shooting on the streets of somewhere around Damascus marks the family dynamics portrayed in this appealing feature. Damascus, the City of Jasmine, now smells like cement and malodorant missiles. If films could duplicate smells, many cinema theatres would be mistaken by bunkers. There are many war movies nowadays.
However Insyriated is much more than an ordinary war movie. Mother Oum Yazan (Hiam Abbass) is trying desperately to keep together her family life whilst outside war is raging. There is hardly any water in the house and every trip outside the door spells danger on account of the snipers on the rooftops above. The Grandfather wisely pledges to forget the world outside, as “it’s not worthy anymore”. But Oum resists: “Here is my home. Nobody will force me out”.
The camerawork is like a fly in a field of sugar and somewhat reminds us of Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu, 2016). Likewise the Romanian movie, Insyriated resignifies the meaning of “home sweet home”. The family is also sheltering a couple and a small child, their neighbours from the floor above. It is when the man is shot outside that Oum is confronted by this atrocity.
The permanent state of emergency transforms the house in a prison. There are snipers who insist on getting into the house. When they savagely break into it, almost everyone manage to hide in the kitchen. It is strange how we as viewers reevaluate the rooms of the house too. The kitchen, usually the most wanted place during parties, is then cold as a cave in the winter.
Insyriated carries the weight of the most horrific holocausts. What Philippe Van Leeuw brings to your eyes is a vivid testimony of Hannah Arendt’s words: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
Insyriated is out in the UK on Friday September 9th.