"Ópera": A Silent Melody By Nabeeha Lotfy

in 31st Cairo International Film Festival

by Nabeeha Lotfy

A very simple narration, smooth as running water … but sometimes the water runs more rapidly, and then the flow stops for a second.

The simple narrative is not as simple as it looks, hiding many complications and innuendos within.

A man and a woman meet. He is a writer; she is a younger university student. They go on a journey intended for the man and meant to be a search for places which will inspire him to create his book. The journey turns sentimental, in a way, but we’re always aware of a detachment inside these feelings.

These are two people whose paths are in the process of crossing; they sleep together in hotel rooms, but their relations are dominated by silence. Very few words are spoken in the film. She asks him about his two daughters; one of them is her age, and the other is fifteen.

He calls his family. She calls hers. The rest is complete silence, but it is a silence that carries a lot of weight, and in all the feelings that it conveys, the idea of stopping the whole flow at the end was not surprising, neither was it entirely expected, but it came in a matter-of-fact ending. And real life interfered at the end.

The man has a family and a book to write. He has arrived at the right place, prepared for the job he’s meant to do. The girl finds nothing in that but a complete abyss; she has taken the ride, enjoyed the trip, the scenery and the off-and-on lovemaking. It was a nice experience while it lasted, but with no guarantee that it will last forever; thus, there’s no harm in it stopping now.

He stays, and she plans to return to her life, understanding deep in her heart that life might offer her another, better chance for happiness — or at least one that could equal this experience.

The bit of sorrow that accompanied that adventure was not tragic. But the joy of the whole matter was to be stored inside the hearts of both adventurers, though the attachment feels somehow loose.

We never knew her dreams. We didn’t know what this relationship meant to her. When she met an old woman who runs a cafeteria, the old woman spoke of her own family, of her grandchildren. This might have been a hint: Does this girl dream of marriage, children, home? None of these questions is answered, and yet there is something that gets into the structure of this interaction — a question that is neither answered nor even directly posed.

What does this man mean to her? What does she mean to him?

No one says anything; nothing tells us anything. We are only entangled by signs of intimacy, but the core of the emotion is not clear.

This is a film about a drifting relationship, but there is an attempt to make it stand on a solid ground. The attempt is not visible; the solid ground is not there.

Throughout the film, its long stretches of melodic silence broken up with small scrubs of words and music, the flow of the picture covers the screen and builds up an atmosphere of freedom and joy — feelings of life in the moment that make the temporary seem eternal.

All through the film we look at the images and feel the movement of the scopes, the movement of the interaction between the two as it reveals certain moments of love … but the feeling doesn’t always express those very strong emotions that could amount to great love.

This film is written with a flow of beautiful pictures, and a melody surrounded by silence, giving the film’s atmosphere a distinct rhythm.

Ópera. I can sense the significance of the title.