Published Aug 01, 2005Some films are so compelling as reportage that one can forgive their aesthetic sins; The Syrian Bride is one of them.
At first, its tale of an Israeli Druze woman about to marry a Syrian sitcom star (and thus never see her family again) is pat and lacking in nuance. Everybody seems to have a label slapped on their head, from the Druze elders who threaten to cast out a father if he acknowledges the son who married outside of the faith to the hardened political convictions of the once-imprisoned father, from cruelly repressed mothers to star-crossed teenage lovers and the goofy groom himself, everything seems to have been positioned for a pamphlet rather than a movie. But it's a surprisingly absorbing pamphlet all the same, skilfully mapping the cross-purposes and mixed emotions of people at the intersection of nations and cultures.
The desires to both affirm and transgress the insular religion and the borders that divide its members cause palpable agony, which comes to a head when bride and groom meet at the Israeli/Syrian border. There they are held hostage by a bureaucratic nightmare right out of Brazil, with lax officials from the two hostile nations strangling them in a snarl of red tape. As a hapless UN official frantically tries to mend fences, you start rooting for a marriage that nobody's sure is a good thing and then catch yourself. What starts off as very simple ends up being extremely complex, and despite an implausibly upbeat wrap-up they've opened Pandora's Box and can't turn back.
It may be more interesting to think about than watch, but the ideas are so important that watching it is well worth your time. (Mongrel Media)