What would you dare to do to save your marriage from clinically dying?The blue elephant discusses this question in a metaphysical and mysterious style.
Yehia (Karim Abdel Aziz) is a psychiatrist who is an alcoholic and a gambler, he is trying to overcome the loss of his wife Nermin and his daughter Nour in a tragic car accident, he is forced to return to his work under the threat of dismissal, so he is assigned to work in the ward 8 west in Al Abbasia hospital, a department that is assigned for those who have committed crimes due to insanity, Yehia is surprised to meet his college friend Sherif (Khaled El Sawy) who is being charged with the rape and murder of his wife Basma.
Yehia with the assistance of Sherif’s sister Lobna (Nelly Karim) tries to help Sherif by proving his innocence or at least his insanity, Thus Yehia throws himself into a dangerous adventure at the risk of losing his grip on reality.
He is an addict, who is easy to sympathize with for he is also intelligent and competent, his tight bond with his past that cripple his life for 5 years, is the motive that restores him to life when he realize that his friend needs him, his distorted moral compass that leads him to addiction, is what aids him to lie to his employers by claiming not knowing Sherif, while attempting to help by any means possible.
At first I had my doubts about Karim Abdel Aziz who gained a lot of his fame through movies like El Basha Telmiz and Haramiyyah fi KG2, could he switch from the romcom style to the mystery/ Thriller? However he completely succeeded in the portrayal of the psychiatrist who is tortured by the guilt of his past, who is desperate to save his friend, who is hopelessly in love, besides his comedic talent was useful in lightening up the mood when it was required.
He seems to be absolutely broken as he not only lost his wife, he is also accused of murdering her, even though in some rare moments he managed to declare that he didn’t kill her, all the forensic evidence condemns him, his weird behavior suggests that he may be suffering from a mental illness, but as a psychiatrist it would be easy for him to fake the symptoms.
Khaled El Sawy has already proven his capability to handle unique and complex roles like his part in The Yacoubian Building, so his success in The Blue Elephant is not a surprise, however this time he plays three different characters (Sherif, Na’el and El Ma’mon) which is a new challenge in its complexity, he has to change his body language and the tone of his voice, so the audience would be able to recognize immediately the character on the screen, for how can we miss El Ma’mon when he declares his job as a “mule trader”.
Na’el is the complete opposite of Sherif, he is strong, he enjoys being in control, manipulating those who surround him, and he always wraps his lies with truths so that you can’t tell the difference anymore.
Yehia’s old flame whom he was forced to be separated from, after Sherif absolute disapproval of Yehia’s marriage proposal, Lobna may seem at the beginning as just the love interest, but soon it is revealed how relevant she is to the main theme of the movie, Na’el is obsessed with her relationship with Yehia and her relationship with her 10 year older husband, because – in Na’el’s point of view – she is the proof that romantic relationships are based mainly on sexual attraction, therefore his existence is justified and necessary.
Nelly Karim depicted the woman who is torn between respecting her brother’s wishes and her love to a man whom she can’t defend, she also managed to walk the thin line between proving her loyalty to an old lover without appearing as a traitor to a husband whom we don’t get to see.
The music of Hesham Nazih carries a huge responsibility as it is always the case with thriller movies, for it is an important factor that instills anxiety and even fear in scenes that may end without any harm to those involved in it, however the insinuation that something might happen is entertaining enough, which is created quite skillfully by Hesham Nazih’s music.
The adding of Sufi praise to the scenes that concern El Ma’mon not only achieve its main role in supporting the movie’s style, it also transcends us to another world that is superior to the one we perceive with our senses, which helps us believe what happens on the screen however strange and contradicting to reality it may seem.
The movie is an adaptation of the novel The Blue Elephant by Ahmed Mourad, the novel always includes richer details and clearer explanations, in my opinion the movie did not fall short in covering what is necessary, even though it had to let go of some of what was mentioned in the novel.
The plot has many threads, one of the most important is the relationship between Basma and Sherif, which what drives the plot along to the point where Sherif is accused of murder, Basma resorts to magic after her marriage deteriorate due to sexual frustration, instead of saving their marriage, they lose control over their lives.
The narrative is compelling, as we first can’t decide if Sherif is ill or he is faking, if he did kill his wife or someone else is to blame, and till the very end we don’t know if Sherif is going to make it or get executed, which is the perfect narrative to keep the audience interested till the last moment.
The main theme discusses how sexual satisfaction or the lack of it can make or break a romantic relationship, but the use of magic creates an unavoidable contradiction, for the story condemns the use of magic even with the best intentions, Sherif and Basma get punished for it, Yehia on the other hand manages to help Sherif using the same method without suffering further consequences, unlike the novel that stayed true to its condemnation to the very end.
The Cinematography & Direction:
The cinematographer Ahmed Al Morsy and director Marwan Hamed have created a masterpiece, that deserves with time to be one of the classics of Egyptian cinema, unfortunately some of the scenes which included the use of CGI looked clearly fake, like the blue elephant itself for example, but it is a forgivable error considering the limited budget of the film (in comparison with Hollywood movies) and there were many scenes that were visually stunning with use of special effects, lighting, music, décor and makeup.
Marwan Hamed uses short and fast montages that you wouldn’t dare to blink at the risk of losing a frame, like the montage for Yehia’s evening with Maya, it perfectly clarifies their relationship that is based on pleasure, it also shows the stress that lies beneath the surface.
Na’el tries to always have the upper hand, and this shot he imposes his presence/ power visually by occupying the higher level of the image, Na’el also attempts to spiritually break Yehia by insinuating that Yehia was responsible for his wife and daughter’s death, Na’el seems like he belongs to the darkness that surround him.
Deega (Sherine Reda) is the witch in this movie, her beauty camouflages her viciousness, but you can still glimpse it in her eyes.
The Blue Elephant is a daring masterpiece, that deserves a lot of praise, and the credit goes to all who participated in making it, finally I would rate it as 9/10.