Saturday, November 2, 2013

Out In The Dark (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Out in the Dark

Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World) exposes the terrors of the heart in "Out in the Dark", an engaging drama about two men in love: one Israeli, the other Palestinian. This natural and homespun film uses some of the apprehension found in a Patricia Highsmith novel: there are men in dark corners, smarmy people and claustrophobic families. But more importantly, the film is authentic without resorting to melodrama. Stylistically, "Out in the Dark" is a cousin to the excellent film "Keep the Lights on" (2011). Both films confront societal pressures, confining mores and the occult secrecy of sex.

At a bar, Arabic medical student Nimr (Nicolas Jacob) catches the eye of Israeli lawyer Roy (Michael Aloni). After some banter about getting a drink, they become hooked to each other. When a friend Mustapha (Loal Nofi) gets shot in the head for being a collaborator, Nimr feels more and more panicked, not only for the Arab - Palestinian bloodshed, but for being a gay man in a society infused with prejudice and hate. To make matters worse, Nimr's macho brother has connections to extremist groups, and has a stock of automatic weapons.

Both Aloni and Jacob shine as two lovers on the run. Nimr illustrates a bohemian existence to some extent while Roy is almost completely entrenched in the bureaucratic realm of offices and corridors. Whenever these two meet in covert collaboration, however, a place of peaceful darkness is born.

In each progressive scene, as family members become more and more shaded with intolerance and hatred, we feel the walls close in.

What once seemed a welcoming Tel Aviv garden of sex and belonging, albeit left to cluttered rooftops, hidden from the heterosexual gaze, soon becomes an Orwellian nightmare of violence and manipulation. Such is the state of things.

In arguably the most devastating scene, we watch in horror as Nimr's seemingly passive brother becomes inflamed with bigotry and militancy when he shoves a pistol in Nimr's face and exiles him from the family.

This is not a political film and most of its dramatic energy comes from the secret of romance in a landscape gone mad with xenophobia. The Palestinian / Israeli conflict serves to enhance the peril of being gay in a society riddled with hate and taboo.

The film's final escape plan of Nimr's yacht might even suggest Tom Ripley's nautical and existential flight to Italy sans any sociopathic tendencies.

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