Le chant des mariees (Wedding Song)


What happens when a film comes out that is thought-provoking, sweet, funny, and sheds new light on a topic that I thought the cinema had pulled all its tricks out on years ago? Well, it means it plays for a single week in a small art house theatre and it means you probably have never even heard of it. But now you have, and I’ve done my job. So there.

Karin Albou’s film concerns two teenage girls in 1942 Tunisia during the Nazi occupation of North Africa. Myriam is Jewish while Noor is an Arab, and they are both preparing for arranged marriages. They are best friends and true companions and they appreciate each other for the people they are, and not for the race, religion, and creed they belong to.

As the film begins, Myriam assists Noor’s learning, as Myriam is allowed to go to school, while Noor isn’t. This is the way of life here. And then come the Nazis, parachuting pamphlets and shouting propaganda about how the Nazi is the Muslims friend and that they should assist in the Nazi cause.

Times get tougher for both girls as the Reich moves in. Myriam is being forced off into marriage with a much older man, primarily for financial and security reasons. Meanwhile Noor’s marriage is being called off due to her fiancé’s lack of work. He considers taking up a job with the Germans.

After a million World War II movies, one might assume that everything has been said and done. But this film is as refreshing as they come. It tends not to judge, nor does it try to hide from us the implications of some of our characters and their actions.

It is a film about a period in time, and about culturals  and differing societies, but it says so much with so little. The film is told strictly through our two characters, yet they encapsulate so much more. And how it says things! Noor’s father, who remains absent for the most part, steals the show in a beautiful scene of parenting. Shot in a locked wide shot, he helps her understand her families religion and faith. And enlightens the viewer; all between napping, which is what he does for the most part.

 Or the scene where Noor picks up a pamphlet, much to Myriam’s chagrin! Or how that same pamphlet winds up helping to save Myriam later on! Or the girls helping each other into dresses! There are so many moments of beauty; of quiet knowledge.

To the Muslims, the Germans can even seem like the good guys. After all, the Jewish folk weren’t exactly giving them fair shakes. What an odd film that allows history to happen in the moment, without hindsight. The viewer can see everyone’s viewpoints. The Germans might be good for them! Maybe they are our friends. Maybe.

Lizzie Brochere, as Myriam, says so much with her eyes; and beautiful huge oceans of eyes they are. Her character is always changing, and we can see her just trying to make heads and tails in this crazy world. Olympe Borval as Noor is a tragic lost child. But they find hope and salvation within themselves. And as the two are being faced with the harsh cultural fact that they shouldn’t be friends, they can, as only folks the closest to you can, hurt each other deeper than any of the other despair around them ever will. Then there is the issue of the homoerotic undertones of the story, but they belong there. These girls do love each other. And with sex being such a big issue and things such as a kiss are a thing of fear and hushed tones; there’s bound to be some confusion and false starts.

“Wedding Song” is a film with a power that builds within you after you see it. You leave the theatre and you like it. But it takes a few days before you realize how much it may have actually moved you. And that is something worth singing about.

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