Winter of Discontent
The depiction of worldwide cultural and political events within cinema is nothing new in today’s media-friendly society, but perhaps director Ibrahim El Batout’s fourth film Winter of Discontent comes a little too soon after the recent Egyptian riots to fully convey the heavy repercussions.
The film is less of a comment on Egypt’s uprising as it is a simplistic observation of the home-lives of fundamental players from either side. Amr Waked is an activist campaigner who, after leaking videos about the riots over the Internet, is tortured at the command of lead antagonist Salah Hanafy, a cold disconnected secret policeman of the once repressive state. Concurrently, news anchor Farah Youssef begins to question her own morals as her news station attempts to downplay the significance of current events to its viewers.
El Batout chooses to refrain from using gratuitous violence as a gimmick. The scenes of torture touch upon the brutality of the situation without resorting to shock tactics. That said, there is an undeniable concerted anger that lies dormant throughout the film and comes to a head during an interrogation scene where multiple Egyptian rebels are questioned about their actions.
Many of the film’s scenes are shot for atmospheric value; slow panning, elegantly framed shots frequent the first half of the film, making for an intriguing watch. However, the deliberately monotonous pace quickly becomes complacent and tedious, essentially appearing dull and uninspired.
This, in conjunction with the film’s lack of overarching narrative voice, presents difficulties for viewers in terms of interpreting events. When faced with Amr crying “Why are you doing this to me? I don’t understand,” many viewers may find themselves asking the same questions. Furthermore, there is little to no character growth whatsoever. El Batout merely touches the surface on the reasoning behind each character’s actions, making them hard to relate to, or even empathise with.
The decision to eliminate almost any non-diegetic music is somewhat contradictory, being at times both complimentary and detracting. This allows the film to breathe and execute its main objectives without interference, though ultimately deprives it of any real soul thus maintaining the overly ambivalent view on such a harrowing event.
Winter of Discontent is released nationwide on 23rd August 2013.
Watch the trailer for Winter of Discontent here: