Suspecting that Egyptian cinema has remained obscure over the years due to its derivative nature and lack of an innovative auteur, I ventured into another of its higher regarded works--Hussein Kamal's 1971 adaptation of Adrift on the Nile (Thartharah fawq al-Nil). Based on Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz's novel about middle-aged hedonists, the film plays like a watered down La Dolce Vita in Cairo.
Protagonist Anis Zaki works (or sits at a desk) occasionally at a boring bureaucratic government job, but primarily spends his time day dreaming and musing about the meaningless of his existence while high on hashish. A simple man with no family, Anis drifts through his routine existence and is drawn into a small circle of bourgeois artists and professionals that spend their evenings aboard a houseboat smoking hashish from a water pipe, dancing, and partying. Some had flirted with revolutionary ideals as youth, but now on the eve of the 1967 War they only express alienation and a desire to escape from Life's realities--Anis is celebrated for his great smoking ability and dealer contacts.
The other male hedonists range from hack journalist, to novelist, to womanizing actor, to lawyer. They believe in nothing except having a good time, and they seek and find women who have thrown off the restrictive shackles of Egyptian and Muslim culture to join their pleasure kingdom. A crisis occurs after a visit to Egypt's original capital in Memphis (just south of Cairo) where they climb and carouse all over the huge reclining statue of Ramses II. They accidentally run over a 19-year old peasant girl. Initially shocked, they soon recover and flee the scene. Back safely inside their houseboat, they begin rationalizing their behavior. Someone spins the situation to make out that the girl is fortunate for never having to suffer again and that they are heroic for making her into a martyr. It's back to the hashish as if nothing has happened.
But Anis remains troubled, becoming even quieter than usual as he sinks into his next high. Thus, he is the one vulnerable character--the only one who retains a conscience and plays a key role when investigative journalist Samara (Magda Al Khattib) enters into the mix, seeking a story about Egyptians who have essentially cut themselves from society and seek only to escape from Life through hashish.
Highly melodramatic and running 15 minutes too long, the simple story is easy to follow. The intended critical examination of modern flawed Egyptian society falls short of the goal due to its superficial characters that never come to life. Only Anis is drawn with any complexity, but still the narrative holds back from getting inside his skin. Just why the lonely protagonist has resorted to empty pursuits is only hinted at--he remains little more than a symbol of the forgotten generation that lies between Egypt's rich past and its uncertain future.
Despite the mundane script and its heavy reliance on off screen narration to convey Anis' thoughts, Kamal's film does contain intriguing elements--the biggest surprise being the insertion of a lively color musical sequence. Location shooting in Cairo, along the Nile, and in historic Memphis is also a bonus. Even thirty years ago, signs of Cairo's burgeoning traffic with its legendary 24/7 routine of honking autos is raising its head. Kamal is no Fellini, but he delivers a dutiful adaptation that dares to criticize Egyptian "progress." (oldschoolreviews.com)
IMDB: A great movie for a great novel it's one of my favorite Egyptian movies.
Because of many things ;the story that talks about Egypt after 1967 and causes that leads to it,about critics ,writers,actors,lawyers every body even university students at this time.
Acting specially Emad Hamdy who played one of his best performances. i have seen this movie about 7 times or may be more and i can't stop watching it .
About direction by Hussen Kamal who is one the best Egyptian directors of all time .what i say is that movie has it all.i have owner ed to comment for this movie. the end ,it was scream to wake the people up ,i think they do. remember 1973 was 2 years later.WATCH IT.
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English sub: http://www.filesonic.com/file/63033837/Tharthara.Fawq.Al-Nil.1971.rar
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