You Will Die at Twenty
Based on a short story by Sudanese writer Hammour Ziada, You Will Die at Twenty follows Muzamil (Mustafa Shehata), a young man whose death at the age of 20 was predicted by a Sufi prophet when he was a baby. Confined to his small village near the Nile, Muzamil is devoted to his mother Sakina (Islam Mubarak) and to his Quranic studies, but the spectre of his impending death looms heavily over him.
It’s a fascinating premise, and the film does as much with it as possible in its 103-minute runtime, exploring concepts of mortality and morality in a number of intelligent and gripping ways. The piece makes great use of its isolated setting to facilitate some complex and compelling character development, and the writing serves to bring depth and nuance to even the most mundane facets of village life. The everyday rhythm is disrupted in some very interesting ways by the knowledge of Muzamil’s death, and the film is intelligently paced to show the clash between the ordinary and the extraordinary.
The movie also benefits from some fantastic cinematography and sound design that work together to create a constantly engaging sensory landscape, despite the singular location. The camerawork transitions from wide, barren shots to claustrophobic and shadowy indoor scenes, making excellent use of the scenery to evoke multiple, distinct, but coexisting forms of isolation and confinement. The audio of the film matches these visuals perfectly, emphasising and heightening the sounds of ordinary life to create a sensory overload of sorts, with religious chanting mixed in to convey a sense of mounting dread and tension.
This great production work is bolstered further by a talented cast who deliver powerful and emotive performances to help the important character beats land perfectly. Shehata and Mubarak shine in their leading roles, representing the burden of a certain lifespan excellently with subtle but impactful acting work.
You Will Die at Twenty is a fantastic film, exploring a single concept in a single setting but making use of that simplicity to tease out multiple levels of nuance and complexity. It can at times be a challenging watch, but it’s always an engaging one, inviting its audience to reflect on their perceptions of the world and life itself.
You Will Die at Twenty is released in select cinemas on 12th November 2021.
Watch the trailer for You Will Die at Twenty here: