Starz / Anchor Bay
Presented on Single Layer Bluray
DTS-HD Master Audio (5.1)
The Movie 1.5 / 5
When Miral was first brought to film, it was expected to be controversial - the telling of a story of a young Palestinian girl who found herself a terrorist. "Is this the face of a terrorist" graces the cover. I had asked for this film because I had expected some controversy based on the book, and I was interested in how a film based on the Palestinian perspective on a conflict would work as a film.
It's often been said that there are multiple sides to a story, and then there is the truth. Miral wants to get us to delve into the Palestinian/Israeli conflict by looking at it from a different perspective, how someone growing up in Palestine might feel about the situation.
It's an effective potential ploy. In fact, I was hoping for this to be more fully developed - that a youth growing up with this community would of course be influenced and persuaded as to the righteous cause, the conflict, and the reasoning.
The problem with Miral, though, is that it gives too short shrift of a look at these issues and moves so quickly from moment to moment that it's difficult to grasp how any of this sorts itself together.
We begin the story in 1947, as the Israeli nation is born, in the ballroom of the Jerusalem hotel, where Vanessa Redgrave entertains the "elite" of the community and addresses what happens next. Newsclips develop for us that Israel is a free state, and Palestine is now home of many orphaned and abandoned children. Hindi, a wealthy woman of sorts, moves to help open up a school for these children, seeking only protection not money from society around her.
After that is established, we are quickly dropped into a new reality: a young girl being raped. Who's raping her? Family? A Landlord? It's never really developed because it happens so darn fast. Nadia, a name given to us in a title card, then leaves her home, wandering out to become a belly dancer. Upset with the world, and for no good reason, she starts a fight on a bus, punching another woman and getting arrested.
She then sits in a jail cell with a woman who explains her motives for trying to bomb a Roman Polanski film screening. The nurse recounts how she wanted to bomb the movie theater because all of the Israeli occupiers were just troops in secret, spreading the war to their soil. The bomb doesn't go off, but those darn Israeli justice! They give her three life sentences anyway. Released from Prison, Nadia finds herself getting married to Siddigs character (again, how they met, and formed a relationship is never explained, we just see a marriage and fast forward 5 years to her having a daughter of about 5 years old)
Now Nadia is married with her husband - played by Alexander Siddig. Here I want to say something - the acting in this film is clumsy, forced and on often it comes across like a high school play. But Alexander Siddig and Hiam Abbass provide real weight for this film, turning in great performances despite the fact they don't have much to work with. How good? Siddig manages to steal two scenes without even talking, just through facial expressions and body language, and Hiam chews through her school scenes to the point that the other actors disappear into the woodwork.
But they simply aren't enough to save the film. To take a hard look at the conflict, too many major events are left out. Those who view this as a Palestinian white washing may feel justified in that no Palestinian is ever seen with a gun or arms, save the bomb that doesn't go off at the beginning. No Israelis are seen dead. While Palestinian homes and deaths are recounted, there is zip on the other side of the fence, which does tend to show a one sided message.
But, I have to say that it would be OK if they had gone all the way with that. If they had said: this is the way a person inside of Palestine saw it, the nobility of their cause, etc. It would have provided a good way for the audience to feel as though it was not the director preaching to you, but rather a look through the eyes and experiences of the character. If they had gone that road, while I might have felt angry at times, I could have seen me taking my anger out on the fact that she grew up in an environment that encouraged it.
There are too many throw away characters, who seem to exist only to address the point of the director and writer to say "see, we find a single good Jewish Person who's dating an Arab" "See, this guy blew up a tower, but now he wants peace"
The film screams: "THIS IS THE MESSAGE! THIS IS THE MESSAGE!" Constantly, but the problem is the "message" makes very little sense when so many key elements are missing.
PICTURE QUALITY: 2 / 5
I knew going in that this film had many detractors because of lens effects. And I have to put myself in that category. Whether intended or not, the way the film was shot makes for a disorienting and at times very uncomfortable viewing experience. Some scenes are shot or presented far too bright; characters find themselves "Moon faced", this especially happens early on. When we take on a character's point of view, we do so through a Fish Eye lens, with a heavy fog on the outside of the screen giving a kind of drunk feeling to the characters, like something you'd see out of a video game. But what it really does is make huge amounts of the film very blurry, sometimes annoyingly so. It may be the intended effect, but the end result was that I felt I needed a tylenol afterwards.
SOUND QUALITY: 3.5 / 5
I actually really liked the soundtrack and music. The score is presented in DTS-HD, and was made solid use of the rears in my home theater. The score was actually better by a good deal over the film itself. There are several portions of the soundtrack I would love to have seperate of the film for ambient music, and they were presented well. The dialog is fairly crisp, and we have one scene where dialog walks the room, creating an interesting experience as our character rides the bus.
Extras: 3 / 5
The extras include several trailers (King's Speech, Company Men, etc.) as well as a cast round table, deleted scenes, and a discussion with the director. I have to say, the discussion with the director was interesting in that while I enjoy other works, I kept thinking someone needed to put a pin in him to deflate how "IMPORTANT" this film was. I often wanted to say: "If you feel it's so important, I wish you had done a better job"
Final Verdict: 1.5 / 5
There are parts of this film that really are worth watching. There are two great performances here. The soundtrack is pretty good. But in the end, the story itself seems to rush around and never finds it's footing. The events are too disconnected, the characters never become likable, and it is one of the more difficult films to watch I've sat through in years. Whether the director wanted them or not, the blurry fisheye moments, and the over exposure in scenes didn't enhance the film, they just made it very difficult to actually focus on. Based on that, it's pretty hard for me to recommend Miral as an “own” product. Still, I do wish more people could watch the performances by Abbass and Siddig. Both of them earned their paychecks.