Karim Abdel Aziz in a still from the movie Fasel Wa Na'oud
There are rare occasions when an Egyptian film can borrow an idea from a foreign movie, add much more to it, and execute it so finely that it becomes a work in its own right.
Fasel Wa Na’oud (We’ll Be Back After a Short Break) is not one of them.
The problems with Fasel Wa Na’oud outweigh the merits (if they exist). The film’s main idea is a worn-out, grainy copy of the movie Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) in the year 2000.
In both films a man contracts an extreme case of short-term memory loss following a crime. Despite his condition, he sets out to solve the crime by writing his notes on paper or on his body. In that respect, both movies are similar, but in every other, they differ completely.
Karim Abdel Aziz plays the role of a down-and-out taxi driver called Araby, a widower with one son. He is fighting over custody of his son with his father-in-law (Ahmed Rateb).
After Araby wins the custody hearing, his son is kidnapped and as a result of resisting the criminals Araby suffers short-term memory loss. He is unable to retain any new memories but can remember everything prior to the accident.
This premise gives rise to the perfect Abdel Aziz mix of action and comedy: a kidnapping for the action and short-term memory loss for the comedy. However this prescription did not work out as well as in Abdel Aziz’s previous films.
For starters almost every scene was over-extended meaninglessly and relied too much on Abdel Aziz’s presence and personal charm. The opening scenes were nothing but a shallow sketch and did not contribute to the remainder of the plot.
The characters were so poorly conceived that it was near-impossible to engage with events. Good cinematography did not cover all the gaps that were left in an under-written script.
Khalid Hammad’s score was easy on the ears but formulaic, and Mohamed Lotfy who played the role of Araby’s best friend wasn’t at his finest. Ahmed Rateb is a great talent wasted on a shallow role. Mohamed Farag (Alf Mabrook) however, was given a relatively big part, suggesting we will see more of him in the future.
The film wasted many minutes of screen time before it finally dragged us to the end. When the crime is solved it is a relief because its the end, rather than from any heightened suspense from the plot.
The film’s under-written script and poor execution had more to do with the film’s shortcomings than the concept. It appears as though both writers Ahmed Fahmy and Hesham Maged, wagered that the brilliance of the idea would eliminate the need to add any real substance to enrich the script.
With Memento, Nolan did not rely only on the idea, but on a technique of storytelling and direction. He displayed events in reverse chronological order and differentiated the various complex timelines using colour filters.
The success and originality of Memento catapulted Nolan to being one of the most important film-makers in Hollywood today.
Fasel wa Na’oud neither offered originality, nor did it mimic Nolan’s technique.
The film is telling of a new generation, deeply influenced by Hollywood, but lacking in both experience and the capabilities to produce the same results.
Starring: Karim Abdel Aziz, Ahmed Rateb, Mohamed Lotfy, Mohamed Farag, Dina Fouad
Music by: Khaled Hammad; Written by: Ahmed Fahmy, Hesham Maged.
Directed by: Ahmed Nader Galal