Lebanese film, ‘I Want to See’ shows in Atwood

The Lebanese film “I Want to See” is an experimental work that is an interesting watch. Written and directed by husband and wife, Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas, they spin a story of a post-war Lebanon. Using part scripted and part documentary style filming and directing, Joreige and Hadjithomas take film to a whole new level.

As we start the film, we see famous French actor Catherine Deneuve, playing herself in the film, talking to her security agent. The first words we hear are, “I want to see,” arguing about her going to Lebanon to film. Then there is a quick transition to meeting Rabih Mroué, the director’s favorite actor who is in all their films.

Then our actors take to the road. But not until we see the actual directors introduce them and tell them to get acquainted. Deneuve and Mroué drive and walk through towns, seeing the destruction and rebuilding taking place. They are on their way to the town that Mroué grew up in. When they get there, rubble fills the streets. Mroué wanted to show Deneuve where he had lived as a child, but he couldn’t find the building; even the road to the house was destroyed. The confusion and anguish on his face makes the scene.

As they go through more of the country, Mroué takes a wrong turn and is stopped just in time from going on a dangerous road, possibly filled with cluster bombs. We can see here the large threat of bombs, versus the small joking warning about seat belts that Deneuve keeps reiterating throughout the film. The contrast of the almost trivial seeming danger of not wearing seat belts and the all too real danger of bombs. They continue on their journey, stopping to get permission to film and to take pictures with local soldiers who are fans.

When they are driving back to attend a gala, Mroué asks Deneuve if she would come back, but we hear no answer as the scene fades to silence. In the last scene of the movie, Deneuve and Mroué see each other from across the room after Deneuve keeps saying she is waiting for a friend. They smile at each other and the scene pans to a balcony, ending the movie.

The filming in some cases was stupendous, and in others, seemed elementary. To be fair, the directors had not planned out specific shots, or set up extreme camera angles. This movie was filmed without a script, only at destination and stopping points along the way. The actors were acting as themselves, the emotions they portrayed were their true reactions to the war torn regions. Whenever one started to fully be immersed in the movie, loud music or a scene changed abruptly, causing one to be jolted out of the movie and take a wider look at it. Joreige and Hadjithomas created a documentary in the style of a film.

“I Want to See” was filmed in 2006, but was not published until 2008. The filming took place in Lebanon and throughout war torn areas in Lebanon. It was brilliantly planned and executed. I would suggest watching it.

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