“THE INSULT” also known as “L’insulte” is a Lebanese film from director Ziad Doueiri that is one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at this years Academy Awards. Set in Beirut, this story-line follows a Palestinian refugee and a Lebanese Christian that have an altercation. Words are said, an insult is given, and a fist is hurled. A disagreement between two proud men, becomes a courtroom trial that captures media attention, and escalates already turbulent relations between the two differing religions.
This was simply put, a fantastic film on many levels. From a technical aspect, the direction and cinematography shined. The story was extremely well-structured. It was timely, with a precise pace and development that gave the entire film a consistent lead-up to the inevitable third-act closing. It developed heart and substance for the characters, that wove into the story perfectly. Regardless the side of the issue you may sit on, or even if you don’t fall onto a vested side of beliefs in the terms of this plot you can connect with the characters and understand their motivations. The cast was flawless, with a clear energy, and even a visible pride portrayed in each of their performances.
The direction from Ziad Doueiri and the cinematography Tommaso Fiorilli were as good together as milk and cookies. Doueiri captures this story with a variety of techniques that all heighten their moments when used. He captures both the beauty and the tight landscapes of Beirut with an array of aerial shots. Simple framed conversations have deep backdrops to them that add a subtle, but effective visual element to their scenes. Other angles put the viewer into the middle of many tense, and emotionally driven conversations something that effectively keeps the intrigue high.
The story weaves between the character’s lives, the courtroom case, the social and political effects this case has on the region, as well as capturing the emotional toll the past has taken on both the Palestinian Muslims, and the Lebanese Christians. That is a lot of parallels to work into a fluid story-line yet the writing from Ziad Doueiri and Joelle Touma pull it off with precision. There is not a wasted minute in this script as each subplot continually progresses with a seamless flow from one to another. It brings them into the narrative when they are at their most relevant, and it results in many compelling, to the point of even riveting scenes. Most notably, inside the courtroom which is where I felt this film absolutely thrived.
Structure and organization were the key to this story-line being able to maintain various sub-plots as if they were meant to be together. As a person without a vested emotional attachment to this subject, given I grew up in another country with my own history and social dynamics. I was still able to connect with, and gain an emotional connection to both men in this film. Early in the film one character may seem unreasonable to the point of being unrealistic. Another may seem so self-righteous that his persona may come off as disingenuous. But for a person that doesn’t know the history, this story-line peels back layers at the right time to build a history of where each of these men were coming from, and it was incredibly fascinating to watch.
Kamel El Basha and Adel Karam both delivered great performances. Basha felt natural in his role. He was warm, he captured a character that was a decent man, but his pride cost him a lot in his life. Basha did a fantastic job of subtly capturing the effects the trial had on him with his physical acting. Early in the film he was much stronger and in control, and as the story-line progresses you can see he is tired and not the same. Something that was all due to the knock-out performance from Basha.
Adel Karam was equally as impactful on this story. Early in the film he seems like a man that is simply unreasonable and almost looking for trouble. For me he wasn’t a very likable character, but the energy in the performance from Karam commanded my attention regardless. As the character’s backdrop develops and much more is learned about his past, you can feel the weight of it perfectly through the emotion of his acting.
This is a film that will take you on a journey. Both from a story-telling aspect, as well as from a cultural one. This film was able to portray how the impact of religion and war on a region can leave lasting result, and how moving on, is not always as easy as it may seem. “The Insult” also weaves layers of story, character exploration, political history, religion, war, and the ramifications of it, into once beautifully crafted film. One that has a very good chance of having a gold statue after the confetti from the Academy Awards has finished falling.