A Film Review: “Empty Words”

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Beirut hosted yet another “European Film Festival”! The 16th edition of  the annual event ended by awarding two student short films, “Dirty Mirror” by Mirna Mounayar (ALBA) and “Empty Talk” by Amanda Abou Abdallah (USEK). The latter  exposes the life of five Lebanese women leading opposing lives.  A consumerism victim with a fresh nose job shares her eagerness to get married to the “right person” before she “dries out”, while an older laborer recounts the story of  how a marriage for money turned blue collar.  In addition to these two,  a suicidal young woman smokes her colorless life away, whilst a liberal lady expresses her fondness of her body with a subtle play on words.  On a different level to these characters a girl sits silent and alone in an empty room, choking as she listens to the others’ experiences.

The general style of the movie focuses on the parallelism between the stories of these women. Technically, it juxtaposes shots of the characters discussing their lives in a manner to show they are actually facing and talking to each other.  At other times, it shows them looking up or down towards each other, which renders a feeling that the women are confined in one space despite their differences.

The film is quite charming in its interpersonal dialogue. The cuts come perfectly in place to imply a conversation amongst the different women which creates a humorous effect.

On the other hand,  the presentation of these various social cases, forms a critique of the Lebanese society. Such as the play on the shallow character, who had a nose job and is waiting for M. Right to come knocking on her door while she enslaves her house maid. Another example, is the wife who victimizes herself. She claims she was convinced to marry her husband for the fortune he was to inherit but ends up supporting both of them instead. In addition to a young lady who’s lost the desire for life  and attempts to kill herself, but is saved by the daily power outage. Thus portraying a facet of the Lebanese routine.

On a different note, the director introduces the feminist attitude in the progressive woman by starting with a subtle insinuation that she is sexually active before it blooms into a full declaration about the previous men she’s slept with. In addition, the character sends out very important messages to women. Such as “women have to remain liberal” and “a woman should be in touch with her body since it’s hers, and hers alone”.  Which encourages women to have a positive self image and promotes a sense of self- empowerment. But although this woman looks tough and sexually liberated, she’s actually not that liberated, instead, she’s just playing a role that was written for her infront of the camera.

But amongst all these “empty words”, remains a silent woman. She listens quietly to the others and chokes on her words whenever she attempts to speak.  She is marginalized from the beginning of the movie. The introductory frame minimizes her importance by posing her head against an empty background, and she is left out of the juxtaposed shots. Her silence peaks when she vomits. The question that remains is wether her introversion reached its breaking point, or if it’s her tolerance level to the conversations being exchanged.

In a final movement, the director connects all these women together through a circular motion of the camera, allowing the viewer to see that they are all having conversations with themselves. The audience has taken a stroll through these women’s lives and experienced the many facets of whom a woman could be.

Contributed by Phoenix

Guest Contributor

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