Manazil Bela Abwab (Houses Without Doors)Berlin Film Festival 2016
Over the course of the last four years, where tragedy and bleakness appear to be all that can emerge from the ongoing Syrian civil war, it would have been difficult to predict a film as extraordinary as Avo Kaprealian’s documentary Houses Without Doors. Falling closer to experimental film, akin to the legendary French filmmaker Chris Marker, it is certainly not for every audience member, but it does offer something rather extraordinary to encounter in cinema: a film where each edit, frame and camera movement is held in close relationship to the emotions and experiences the filmmaker is representing.
Composed largely from home movie footage shot in Kaprealian’s parents flat in Aleppo, with the only real divergences being small vignettes using archival footage and appropriated clips from other movies, the film is structured from the first-person point of view, with the camera substituting for Kaprealian’s own eye and, in turn, the film itself becoming a window into the consciousness of the filmmaker. Regular sights of the outside world and the war occurring on the ground are seen from the balcony of this apartment, the camera looking down in extreme close-up to grey plumes of smoke rising in the distance or citizens searching the streets attempting to figure out where gunshots are coming from. When inside the flat, the camera is often stuck on the television screen, watching rolling news reports about the war, while Karpealian’s parents discuss in the most banal way the chaos that surrounds them, meanwhile continuing in their daily routines . A deep sense of claustrophobia is forged through the lack of location changes, but the use of a lucid and poetic style of editing ease what would otherwise be a confounding sense of dread.
Through these stylistic devices Kaprealian captures in an incredibly inventive manner what the experience for a citizen during wartime must be like: a peculiar mixture of terror and boredom. His courage in tackling this subject in such an irregular way is what sets Houses Without Doors apart from a great number of documentaries, but his achievement in using the film form to craft for the viewer a psychological expression of his experiences makes this production truly remarkable.
House Without Doors does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for Houses Without Doors here: