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Movie Critic Review: A Man in Our House (1961)


Henry Barakat links romance to realism in a nationalist movie. 



(There is) A Man In Our House

By: Badr Eddin Hassan Ali

"A Man in Our House" remains a milestone in the history of Egyptian cinema. 
Skillfully directed by Henry Barakat from a 1961 adaptation of a novel by the famed
Egyptian writer Ihsan Abdelgaddous, it ranks high among the best Egyptian movies.
Along with Omar Sharif, who later was hailed into the international film scene by his role in Lawrence of Arabia, the film starred Zubaida Tharwat, Hussein Riad, Hassan Yousef and Rushdi Abaza. Big names!
I took a particular liking to this film when I watched it in the holy month of Ramadan because both the writer (a muslim) and the director (a christian) addressed Ramadan with much respect and honesty. The general atmosphere of the film is a magnificently conscious blend of worship 
The events of the film can be summarized in Ibrahim's attempt at assassinating the Prime Minister. He is subsequently arrested and sent to the prison hospital but escapes and seeks to hide at his friend's. Being from a middle class family, the friend Mohie Zahir, is far from suspicion by the police as he is an employee with no interest in politics. Zahir, the head of the family, senses that this young man hiding in his house is not a criminal but a nationalist and therefore he accepts to accommodate him. But the family gets a surprise visit by Hameed, their cousin who loves and wants to marry their daughter. Hameed finds out about Ibrahim who then leaves the home to spare them trouble. Ibrahim's colleagues start to plan for him to flee the country, but Ibrahim changes his mind in the last moments and decides to resume his resistance activity against the British colonial authority.
It is a story with a very special 
taste, distant from novelist Ihsan's usual wrapping of sex and sensualities into the events of his novels. It gently but efficiently strikes the chord of nationalism and puts characters from the middle class close to popular atmospheres which the great writer has not particularly tried to depict in his other novels - but he does so here with a vibrant outcome.

OmerSharif and Zubaida Tharwat
Through this story of a rebel against the British occupation who took part in several commando operations that made him wanted by the police and through his temporary hiding with a friendly family, the film weaves its delicate strings to say a whole lot with great insight and compassion and with a deep understanding of the Egyptian character; of the human heart.
Barakat in this film (one of his finest) links the romantic, of which he is known through his previous works, to pure realism that he renders in a poetic way so tender and packed with sentiments. He connects, with the skill of a surgeon, the artery of 'the national' with that of the human heart causing the blood to flow warm and mellowed in our veins as we relive the days and nights of this family's trying situation. We witness the discovery of one's love to his homeland and the willingness to confront the occupier as new values instilled by this rebellious young man into this conservative family in their traditional home with its old Anglo-French oriels windows (mashrabiyat)
Omar Sharif in this film offers one of his most beautiful performances, or maybe his most beautiful part ever in the Egyptian cinema, with some of the best actors such as Rushdie Abaza in the role of a mysterious character which suits his prevailing screen presence and around whose aura the script derives strength and brilliance. In fact, through the strong performance of his cast, Barakat manages to bring forth life-throbbing representations of affection, longing, suffering and pride.
"A Man in Our house" is a striking example of a political film that says a lot without screaming; that blows off more than one subject without feigning or being spasmic. A film that tells us that love, patriotism and social responsibility are the types of blood that are eternally mixed in our veins and that they are the inseparable source of our pride, our sorrows and our inner light.


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