Capharnaüm might be the best drama film of late. That’s quite a bold opening statement, but the narrative and cinematography is absolutely mind blowing. The film is about a 12-year-old boy named Zain (played by Zain Al Rafeea) who commits a crime and ends up in prison, only to then sue his parents for him “being born”. Which is a juicy storyline in itself.
The story starts in the present with Zain at court suing his parents. For the rest of the film you are thrown into the past to learn of the events that led to Zain being sent to prison, with some snippets of the present time. The purpose of the story line is to show you the struggle that is Zain’s life, and explain what horrific events led to him eventually suing his parents. It’s slow-paced and you are drip fed bits of information as the film progresses at just the right amount to keep you enthralled.
Capharnaüm doesn’t solely focus on Zain though. All of the characters are struggling, and you are revealed little looks into their life. Zain eventually meets Rahil (played by Yordanos Shiferaw) who has also had a horrific life, but due to a completely separate yet just as unfortunate set of events. She’s a solo mother struggling to support her baby son, while her citizenship papers are about to expire. This requires her to save money so she can to afford these, otherwise she will be arrested and deported – and lose her son.
The director (Nadine Labaki) chose to use inexperienced actors to give Capharnaüm a raw feel, and to make the emotions and events have a realistic tone. This really pays off, and without knowing this, you wouldn’t realise they aren’t professional actors. Each actor/actress delivers such a powerful performance, and I honestly couldn’t recommend this movie enough. Nadine Labaki also plays a small role in the film herself, taking the role of the boy’s lawyer.
The camera work is outstanding, and there is a particular scene (I won’t go into detail as you need to experience this for yourself!) where I actually had goose bumps due to the symbolism and I was shocked by how such simple use of the camera could have such an effect. Capharnaüm also harnessed the use of silence in an impactful way. There were a few scenes where there was no dialogue between characters, but the silence spoke volumes and was aided with the use of body language.
Another outstanding feature is the use of music. It’s well placed and adds greatly to the tone of the movie. Music can make or break a scene, Capharnaüm harnessed it in a way which so perfectly captures the essence of the setting and will really make you feel the emotion that they are trying to portray.
Capharnaüm is a tragic film, and this doesn’t stop right till the very end. If you’re a person who loves a good ending, you’re not really going to get it. But, if you want to feel some “warm fuzzies”, the very last scene of the movie is bound to put a smile on your face. With great acting and superb cinematography, this is one of the most emotional films I have ever watched. Capharnaüm has won many film awards which it absolutely deserves. Give it a watch but be prepared for ‘dem feels’!
Check out the trailer here: